Government’s reasoning for relaxing Covid restrictions

The relaxation of further Covid restrictions on 19 July is by far the biggest piece of news this month.

Normally I try to avoid focusing on a single topic in these newsletters, but this is so important.

So, why is it that the government has decided to move to step four of its roadmap for Covid recovery?

The government set itself four tests to pass before relaxation of the rules should take place.

The first test was a successful vaccination programme; this test has clearly been met.

More than 80 million doses of vaccine have now been given and by 19 July every adult in the UK will have been offered a first dose.

But the important fact is that nine out of ten adults in the UK now have Covid-19 antibodies.

The second test was what impact the vaccination programme is having on hospitalisations and deaths.

Public Health England estimates that two doses of vaccine provide 96% protection against hospitalisation for all the current variants of the virus.

So, while the link between catching Covid-19 and having to go to hospital has not been totally broken, it has been massively reduced.

The third test was whether the likely infection rates would still put unsustainable pressure on the National Health Service.

To answer this test requires use of scientific modelling, a tool that has been immeasurably improved over the past 18 months as scientists have learnt more about the virus.

The models suggest that, while daily cases may increase to as many as 100,000, the effect of the vaccines mean that this will not result in an overwhelmed NHS.

To my mind, this is the hardest of the tests, since increased case numbers will lead to increased deaths, as well as more people suffering from the effects of long Covid.

But we need to remember that continued restrictions are also having serious negative health impacts, even ignoring the continuing economic and social damage.

Domestic violence cases have risen dramatically; mental health issues, particularly among the young, have risen sharply; and illnesses such as cancer are going undiagnosed.

Covid-19 is never going to be totally eradicated. So, given that we cannot keep on maintaining these damaging restrictions forever, the best advice is that we take advantage of the summer weather to relax conditions now rather than wait until the autumn, when additional cases would then combine with winter illnesses to make matters worse.

The fourth test is that all these risks are not fundamentally changed by a new variant of concern.

We need to remain on our guard against a new strain emerging that is either more transmissible than the Delta variant or able to evade the vaccines.

To protect against this the increased vigilance at our international borders will be maintained, as well as further resources being poured into genomic sequencing capability, so that new strains can be identified as soon as they emerge and dealt with.

None of the above is without risk, but the same is true for continuing with restrictions that have caused terrible damage themselves.

If we all continue to be responsible in our personal decisions, we can play our part in the country being able to live with a virus that will never be eradicated but can be controlled.

These are some of the hardest judgement calls a government can be called upon to make, but I hope this explanation helps to set out the thinking behind the decision making.

If there is anything I can help you with, please get in touch via email. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or via my website.

Jerome Mayhew, MP for Broadland

Strategy for halting and reversing biodiversity loss

Now that the weather has finally warmed up, the natural environment is even more apparent to us.

Nature looks wonderful at this time of year, with the verges bursting with cow parsley and the young leaves on the trees showing acid green.

But all is not well. Biodiversity – the variety of plant and animal life – in the UK has been in significant decline for decades.

To put that into perspective, for those of us aged 40+, do you remember how many bugs used to get squashed on a car windscreen when you were a child? What about now?

That reduction in abundance of nature should worry us all since it is happening right across the globe. The world has lost two thirds of its wildlife in the past 50 years – during my lifetime.

It is vitally important that we stop the decline in biodiversity loss here in the UK, and then reverse it.

Change in farming practices

To achieve this our farming practices are going to change dramatically over the next 10 years.

Instead of being encouraged by EU subsidies to focus on the volume of food produced over all other considerations, farmers are now going to be paid by taxpayers to protect and enhance the environment.

The government will no longer subsidise production or just give money to farmers based on their acreage.

Instead, taxpayers’ money will be spent on improvements to nature and the environment via the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

More of us should be able to enjoy our countryside, too. We are blessed with a network of public footpaths right across the country.

But it would be even better if we could agree with farmers to have additional access to the countryside. Under ELMS, it will be possible to pay farmers to open up new routes.

In anticipation of this I have been working with Norfolk County Council to build up a map of missing links in our great patchwork of footpaths.

Regenerative agriculture

It is not just subsidies that are going to change our farming, but the technology of farming itself.

Dynamic arable farmers are discovering that soil health, rather than chemical inputs, is at the heart of healthy, profitable farms.

Loosely described as “regenerative agriculture” the new focus on reducing soil disturbance and maximising carbon content in our soils reduces the need for expensive chemicals to farmers while maintaining good yields.

Better still for the rest of us, it improves habitats for increased biodiversity and abundance and has the potential to make our fields a massive store for carbon: increase the carbon content of soil by just 0.1% and you lock away 9 tonnes of carbon in every hectare.

We need to tackle this internationally as well as locally. In November, the UK is going to host the COP26 conference of 190 world leaders in Glasgow.

A key priority will be to finalise the Paris Rulebook – the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, a reality. Plans to tackle biodiversity loss with be at the heart of this negotiation.

Local attractions

It was a privilege to visit so many of our great attractions and businesses as part of English Tourism Week. It was good to see so many visitors to Broadland, particularly over the Bank Holiday.

Visit England is encouraging us all – residents and visitors alike – to explore our wonderful area and find our own ways to “Escape the Everyday”.

Essential services

Finally, following the closure of Coltishall’s Wroxham Road Post Office earlier this year, a new mobile service will be launched on 21 June.

I want our villages and rural areas to continue to be served properly with essential services like these, so please do get in touch if you have any comments to make on this new facility.

If there is anything I can help you with, please do get in touch via email. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or via my website.

Jerome Mayhew, MP for Broadland

Positive signs of a return to normality

With more than half the population now having received their first Covid jab, and with over 25% having received both doses, there are positive signs of a return to normality over the next few months.

It’s been good to see our local shops, pubs and sporting groups getting back into action, and I have enjoyed being able to meet so many constituents across Broadland during the parliamentary Easter recess.

It has been a busy time in parliament. I was recently appointed a “Sustainable Agriculture Champion” – looking at ways to help our farmers make the most of science and technology, play their part in the “green revolution”, and ensure our food supplies are both secure and sustainable.

And I have served on the Bill Committee scrutinising the government’s plans to create an Advanced Research & Invention Agency that will help bring together the best minds to find solutions to some of the problems that face us all today.

The government has now launched Project Gigabit, with Broadland one of the areas to benefit in a second wave of investment in high-speed internet connections over the next year to 18 months.

And I was pleased to be able to speak in a debate on the Post Office Horizon (IT) scandal, calling for the government to provide appropriate levels of compensation to those sub-postmasters who have had their lives turned upside down through false accusations of fraud and theft made against them.

The “roadmap” for the country’s Covid recovery is proceeding as planned. By 17 June, all being well, all restrictions will have been eased and life will be close to normal for the first time since March 2020.

This will be great news for our tourism, events and hospitality businesses. Local unemployment, which we have all be worried about, has now started to fall and I hope this trend will accelerate as we emerge from lockdown.

As ever, if there is anything I can help you with, please do get in touch via email. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or via my website.

Jerome Mayhew, MP for Broadland

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
Email: jerome.mayhew.mp@parliament.uk
www.jeromemayhew.org.uk