As we set out into week 5 of what is currently a 6 week lockdown arrangement across our nation, for many of us who have managed to maintain our roles at home without too many changes from work or elsewhere, this will simply be an extended un-social time. However for many more people the impact has been much greater. Of course the economic or employment challenges whilst very significant are in many cases far less of a problem than the health impact on people who have been seriously affected by COVID-19. It is very hard to see beyond such matters at present and although some of the social limitations including walking along the beach will not take long to recover, the inability to take part in events that have been cancelled or that took place with only one or two people present have had a much more long term issue for those impacted. It may be too early for many of us to try to find positive results from this crisis, but we do need to pay attention to any evidence that is emerging. If our environment is beginning to improve in a measurable way, then there could be health improvements for some people and this would need to be treated very seriously along with the potential gain for our future generations. If there has been a reduction in injuries and even deaths from much more restricted travel conditions, then this factor needs to be profiled before we resume our travelling in the post lockdown setting. There has sadly been a range of violent C-19 actions by people towards the police, NHS and other workers, but there has also been a measurable reduction in some types of crime in the early days of the lockdown period and so again, there needs to be an opportunity to determine how we should behave and act in the future in a way that will improve our nation.
One of the alternatives to physically present face to face meetings for those of us who have access to appropriate technology is the use of video conferencing which has impacted a range of high to medium value commercial arrangements and some lower value social settings for the last few years. However it has now taken on a much wider provision as travel has become prevented following on from the C-19 impact. A number of events and meetings along with even some weddings and funerals have taken place using this technology and whilst no one would ever have considered this before apart from in contexts where someone was ill or a long distance away, it is clear that what we could not have experienced 10 years ago under any circumstances is now possible and it has a range of benefits depending on the nature of the event. Along with the social and work settings, our Parliamentary agency has all of a sudden been forced to make this shift, even though it has never been accepted before. Over the last few weeks a number of committees have been using this approach and as from tomorrow our whole assembly will be meeting for the first time using this technology. After many many years of the Government refusing to allow voting to take place from outside of the aye and noe physical locations, there will finally be decisions taken by our representatives from their constituency offices or other locations. This is potentially one of the very significant gains for all of us as we can now call on the Parliament to embrace this approach way beyond our lockdown arrangements. There are of course a great many elements that will limit this approach, but there are equally many that will extend its value. We may see a rather untraditional set of speeches being made as people will be talking from within their own venues rather than in the historic setting. However the rather extreme reaction by certain groups of MPs during speeches or Prime Minister Questions as if they were at a football or rugby match will be lost. This should place more focus on the quality of the words by MPs or Ministers than sometimes takes place in the crowd settings where supporters or opposers use clapping or shouting to distract the wider audience. Along with the change to the actual speeches, there will also be a much more accessible level of engagement by MPs who are not well or who are pregnant or have young children to look after. This is clearly a good aspect and we should support this. However there will need to be a way of avoiding MPs from ignoring the quality of the debate and simply voting as their party determines they should do so, although this has already been a challenge for many years.