OPINION: Karin Smyth MP on Bristol’s response to the Coronavirus crisis

(Newspaper column as seen in The Pigeon in September 2020)

It’s been six months since the Coronavirus pandemic arrived here in the UK and changed all our lives. Like you, we have all had to adapt – it’s been particularly difficult for those with families to support. It’s been a bumpy ride and it’s not over yet.

I’ve been in regular touch with Public Health experts here in Bristol and it’s clear that we are going to have to learn to live with this virus. They are working hard to support businesses, schools and workplaces to adjust.

While lockdown measures eased over the summer and some of us managed to experience a semblance of normality – seeing family and friends for the first time since the start of the year – we’re heading into another period of unknowns this winter.

But we’re learning more about this virus all the time and have finally got a good localised track and trace system in place – something I’ve been calling for from the off. If we know where the virus is and how it’s transmitted, we have some hope in controlling it. It was a very different picture 6 months ago.

By the time you read this, most schools have re-opened for all pupils, people will be returning to working in offices – with additional measures in place to account for the ongoing risk – and many closed businesses will have re-opened.

As the Government emergency support drops off – the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme set to end next month (Oct) – I’m concerned that we are going to see more businesses struggling to stay afloat and more people losing their jobs. It’s not going to be easy and will be an incredibly worrying time for many, but it also provides us with an opportunity to look at how we rebuild.

Earlier in the summer, I spoke on a Bristol Festival of Ideas panel exploring the future of the city. We’ve seen some incredible innovation during this crisis – especially from our entrepreneurial voluntary sector here in Bristol South. New partnerships have been formed, new ways of working and organisations have adapted, at speed, to meet the needs of local communities. It is because of this incredible work that this area has not been hit quite so hard as other areas of the country.

We must take all these learnings and listen to local people to forge a path through this crisis and create a better society. A greener society. A fairer society. One which we’ve all had a say in, and all have a stake in.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this – you can reach me via email: karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk