Last Tuesday was the anniversary of the UK going into our first lockdown on 23rd March 2020. It was a poignant reminder of the lives that have been lost during the past 12 months – a period that has been like no other in most of our lifetimes. But the anniversary was also a day to reflect on the way communities in Central Devon have come together to look after one another, a day to recognise the extraordinary dedication shown by our frontline NHS staff and other key workers, and a day to look forward with optimism as more lockdown measures are being lifted.
More than 30 million vaccinations have been administered in the UK and last week I spoke with the main organiser behind the vaccination drive at St Boniface House between Ashburton and Buckfastleigh to thank the staff and volunteers for their hard work. Here in Central Devon and across the South West we have seen a fantastic level of take up with 99% of those being offered the jab accepting it.
This is not the same story across the country however, with around 1 in 7 people in London so far declining. If that ratio continues, there will be up to a million people in our capital city alone who will be more vulnerable to catching Covid and will be more likely to pass it on. It is in part because of these refusals, and in part because no vaccine is 100% effective, that hospitalisations and deaths will not continue to fall as quickly or as far as we would like. Regrettably, we will have to accept this as we rightly continue to lift lockdown measures, re-open our economy and reunite families and friends.
More information on my work during the past year can be found at www.melstridemp.com. This includes action to support school re-openings, partnering with Google to teach local primary school children about staying safe online, promoting mental health support and providing support to local Covid response teams. My main focus though has been on help for local businesses and for self-employed workers. Through the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, which I chair, I have fought successfully for a number of changes in Government policy, most recently ensuring that 600,000 newly self-employed workers can access financial support.
I have also worked hard to ensure that the pandemic doesn’t mean other important issues are forgotten. For example, during a Liaison Committee meeting last week (the committee which brings together all the select committee chairs), I pressed the Prime Minister directly on funding for social care, for the backlog of NHS operations and treatments and for catch up support for primary school children. I have chaired a key parliamentary inquiry into Decarbonisation and Green Finance, and through my involvement with Climate Assembly UK I have pressed the Government to ensure investment in green technology and jobs is at the heart of our economic recovery.