Preventing a January spike in infections is in our hands

We have got used to the feeling that Norfolk has a very low infection rate of Covid-19 and I fear that this is leading us into a false sense of security.

While it’s true that the East of England as a whole has lagged most of the rest of the country in rates of infection, this time round we are seeing growing transmission in our community in a way that we have not seen before.

At the time of writing, Broadland has an infection rate of around 150 per 100,000 population and rising.

Rates of infection in North Norfolk are much lower, but with a typically more vulnerable population.

We cannot be complacent: if we want to be able to open shops and maintain livelihoods in the run up to Christmas, while not overloading our hospitals, we must do all we can to make the Covid-19 restrictions work.

Without all of us choosing to stick to the rules there is a risk that we will end up with another spike of infections in early January. It is in our hands to prevent this.

Like many of us, I have been enormously encouraged by the new vaccines; there is every reason to be hopeful for the future.

With increasing light ahead we still need to stick together to get through this winter, protecting each other and ourselves.

We can do it by maintaining our vigilance, not mixing with other families, however tempting, and keeping to the “hands, face, space” mantra.

Vaccinations will begin later in December for the most vulnerable and those on the frontline, with a rapid rollout to other groups during January and February.

As our thoughts turn towards Christmas, I was delighted to give Sophie and Isabel, both from Taverham, winner and runner-up certificates for my Christmas card competition.

Their wonderful drawings have been made into my Christmas card and will be delivered to hundreds of families over the next few weeks.

I don’t know what Christmas is going to look like this year.

In my family, if the to-do list feels sufficiently under control to be able to attend midnight mass then you know that you are ahead of the game.

Too often, cooking, last-minute wrapping and tidying mean that I miss it; this year it may have to be different.

But, whatever restrictions on our lives come Christmas Day, I will try to remember how lucky I am when compared to a young family, away from home, sheltering in a shed in Bethlehem.

However we celebrate this year, happy Christmas!

As ever, if I can help you with any issue or concern, please do email. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or via my website.

Jerome Mayhew, MP for Broadland

Government review of offshore wind farm connections

In these tough times, I’m pleased to be able to begin this month with some genuinely good news.

Norfolk MPs have campaigned strongly to stop every new wind farm having to dig its own trench across Norfolk to connect to the National Grid.

The current rules prevent them from sharing trenches and also stop National Grid from taking the National Transmission System to the North Sea. The result is huge disruption for our villages and ecology.

Our lobbying persuaded the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to order a review of the system, which has just been published: National Grid ESO agrees with us!

By integrating offshore connections the industry will save up to £6 billion – that’s money off our bills in the long run – and will largely do away with the need for on-land cabling in Norfolk.

This is real progress, but the challenge will now be to make sure this actually happens, and that schemes that are already in the pipeline can take advantage of this new approach. I will continue to work on this.

Green Homes Grant scheme

October also marks the launch of the government’s new Green Homes Grant scheme: homeowners and landlords can apply for a grant voucher towards the cost of installing energy-efficient improvements to homes.

This could include insulating your home to reduce energy use or installing low-carbon heating to lower the amount of carbon dioxide your home produces.

Grants of up to £5,000 or £10,000 are available (dependent on circumstances). Find out more about the scheme via my website or at the Green Homes Grant website.

Covid-19 infections rising

The reduction in the number of Covid-19 cases over the summer provided a respite for our retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, and a much-needed boost to our local economy.

However, with the winter flu season starting, infections will rise so we must continue to focus on taking sensible precautions.

The number of cases in Broadland continues to remain low, but there has been a dramatic increase in Great Yarmouth. The simple precautions of “Hands. Face. Space” will continue to be important for the foreseeable future.

As ever, if I can help you with any issue or concern, please do email. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or via my website.

Jerome Mayhew, MP for Broadland

Broadland businesses and communities respond to the challenge of Covid-19

I hope you have had an enjoyable summer and were able to take advantage of the superb weather during August.

It has certainly been a busy time for local businesses, with a hugely welcome upturn in tourism and recreation.

In Broadland, 82,000 claims were made under the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, benefiting our pubs and restaurants by just under £500,000 and it really seemed to build confidence that we can go out and use local resources in a low-risk way.

The way in which our schools have been able to return to proper education has been another positive milestone. With three children of my own, I well know the benefit they are getting being properly back at school.

Teachers have put a huge amount of thought and planning into making the system work, again in a low-risk way, and deserve our full support with the new way of doing things.

Over the summer recess, I visited many people around the constituency, helping out where I could and seeing how businesses and communities have been responding to the challenge of Covid-19.

I have also been talking to care home managers and staff around Broadland to learn from their experiences first-hand. We have learned so much and it is vital that these lessons inform our ongoing response.

Set against these positive signs of progress has been the local Covid-19 outbreak at Banham Poultry (well-controlled at the time of writing) and the wider upward trend of Covid infections across the country, resulting in the reintroduction of the “rule of six” restrictions.

Some people have argued that this is an overreaction given the very low death rate. But I am afraid that international experience shows that widespread infection in the younger population cannot be stopped from spreading to the more vulnerable over time.

You cannot successfully divide our community into two, even if you wanted to, so we need to suppress this infection growth and we all have our role to play, whatever our age.

Broadland residents have shown remarkable public spirit, as you would expect, and I am sure that we will continue to do so.

As ever, if I can help you with any issue or concern, please do email. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or via my website.

Jerome Mayhew, MP for Broadland

Supporting local businesses as shops start to reopen

We certainly cannot say that life has returned to normal, or even if it ever will, but thanks to your commitment and sacrifices during the lockdown period we have managed to keep our rate of infection low in comparison with other areas of the UK.

We must not drop our guard, and social distancing will continue to be of vital importance for the foreseeable future.

As the rules are gradually relaxed they necessarily become less black-and-white and more nuanced. We all need to use our common sense to achieve the goal of social distancing in all the situations in which we find ourselves.

When shops and businesses start to re-open please show them the confidence that you feel in their future.

Roads will be reconfigured and pavements widened to make it safe to visit local shops with confidence. You can make your stand for local businesses by giving them your custom.

The easing of the general lockdown is made possible by a test, track and trace system that allows local infections to be isolated without the whole community having to do the same.

Local testing capacity

It’s great that the government has sited a new regional testing centre at the Postwick Park and Ride. This is on top of the three testing sites at our A&E hospitals, the mobile military testing units and the national postal tests. It provides us with more than enough local testing capacity to deal with test, track and trace.

I have been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity shown to those in need by communities across the constituency. We have seen the best of each other in the springing up of community support groups, new friendships between neighbours, and particularly in the support being given to the elderly and vulnerable.

I also want to pay tribute to the work of our councils. It is often tempting to complain about “the bureaucracy”, but as a new MP I have seen that parish, district and county councils have worked their socks off, supporting those most in need and getting government grant money out the door and into local businesses as quickly as possible.

Connecting offshore wind farms

Away from coronavirus, I have been working with my colleagues George Freeman MP and Duncan Baker MP to persuade the government to look properly at alternative solutions to the connection of offshore wind farms to the National Grid.

It’s a complex picture, but the current system of individual connection corridors being dug 30+plus miles across Norfolk for each individual wind farm is clearly wrong and needs to be fixed.

We have already met with the minister responsible and are now tracking down Ofgem and National Grid. I am pleased to say that Ofgem has now been tasked with undertaking a review of alternative means of connection and I am meeting them shortly to push this further.

There are plans to increase offshore wind generation from the current 8.5 MWh to no less than 40 MWh by 2030, so this problem is only going to get worse unless we address it. We all want to increase our renewable energy, but let’s do it sensibly.

Finally, if you have a problem with which you think I could help, please do get in touch. The best way is initially by email or by telephone. Face-to-face surgeries will restart as soon as we are allowed, but Zoom works pretty well.

Jerome Mayhew MP, Member of Parliament for Broadland
House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4733