Friday, 24 April 2020

My article in this week's Cornish Guardian

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian newspaper unsurprisingly, once again, focuses on elements of the battle against coronavirus. It was as follows:

The announcement that the lockdown is to continue for at least another three weeks was expected. It emphasises the need to carry on being vigilant and to follow government advice about staying at home and practising social distancing.

I have an example about why social distancing is so important. A very good friend has been classed as vulnerable and he has been self-isolating at home. His brother, who is an NHS worker, has dropped off food to him on a couple of occasions. But this brother subsequently discovered that he had become infected with coronavirus. It was obvious that he must have had the virus when he visited my friend, but because they were careful to keep their distance from each other, it was not passed on. I am pleased to report that my friend’s brother is recovering well.

In previous columns, I have written about the significant range of measures that have been put in place by the UK Government, though it is inevitable that some issues and shortcomings will have arisen.

As a local councillor, I have received representations on a range of matters which include the lack of PPE for frontline staff in the NHS and other public services and care homes, as well as the need to increase the extent of testing to help eradicate Covid-19. In addition, I have been contacted about the furloughing initiative and financial support for small businesses.

In coming up with the ambitious Job Retention Scheme, which allows employers to furlough staff while the state pays 80% of their wages, the UK Government made a mistake in specifying that employees had to be on the PAYE system by 28th February. This left many people who had recently changed jobs ineligible for support. I welcome the news that the UK Government has listened and changed that date to 19th March, though this will not protect everyone. I hope MPs will look again to ensure that no-one, who could have been furloughed, misses out on this support.

Thousands of local businesses have also received grants to assist them in these difficult times, and Cornwall Council has been particularly effective at distributing the money. I have also received representations from some small enterprises who may not qualify for the support, while others are angry that second home owners (registered for non-domestic business rates) could get grants. At the same time, there is a lack of clarity about whether a local social enterprise I am involved with will get support. Again, I hope that those in authority will ensure that no genuine local business will lose out.

Please keep safe, one and all.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian newspaper is, somewhat unsurprisingly, about the Coronavirus crisis. It will be as follows:

The terrible news that more than 10,000 people in the United Kingdom have died from covid-19 shows we have some way to go before the pandemic is defeated.

It is inevitable that the present lockdown will need to continue, but I have to say that I think it is really impressive how the vast majority of people are respecting and following government guidelines, for example, to work from home, maintain social distancing or to self-isolate.

We all have a role to play at this time of global emergency. As one Professor of Medicine said: “It has never been easier to save a life. Just stay at home. If we all keep it up, the death toll will fall. Self-discipline over the next few days will be key.”

It is also phenomenal that so many local residents are looking out for their families, friend and neighbours.

But we must keep remembering that NHS workers are in the real “front-line” of this crisis, doing their utmost to save the lives of people already infected and who, in the words of the Prime Minister, are “putting themselves in harm's way.” It is awe-inspiring that so many people are going to work, day after day, in the full knowledge that they are exposing themselves to such a dangerous virus, and it is distressing that more than twenty doctors, nurses and hospital porters, have already lost their lives.

Other key workers such as employees in the care sector, shop and supermarket workers, postal / delivery workers, members of the emergency services and those keeping public transport going, are also continuing to serve the public, which puts them at greater risk than the majority of the population.

With so many individuals striving to get us through this difficult time, and lots of families and small businesses facing an uncertain future, it is shocking to hear how certain wealthy individuals and “funds” have made vast amounts of money by “playing the markets” as investors feared a global economic downturn because of coronavirus.

One American investment company “placed bets on market volatility” and bragged that it made £2.4 billion, while one “investments fund” claims to have made a return of 3,612% in the month of March. And here in the UK, a company called Somerset Capital Management (and founded by a government minister) has been trying to generate new business by telling potential clients that the crisis made “excellent entry points for investors” while promising “super normal returns” – whatever that is.