We are certainly living in ‘interesting’ times. Welcome to a completely new Beckenham. None of us has experienced anything remotely like what the Prime Minister ordered last night.
Everyone must stay at home unless shopping for essentials, doing one allotted exercise session per day, for medical need or to provide care to a vulnerable person, or travelling to and from work - but only where absolutely necessary.
This loss of freedom is in fact essential to protect the country from the worst of the coronavirus outbreak, and to give the NHS a chance of avoiding a catastrophic collapse.
Delivering an address to the nation, Boris Johnson made no attempt to downplay the severity of the situation as he said: “At present there are just no easy options. The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost.”
The PM said the measures will be reviewed in three weeks to see if they can be relaxed, but none of us should be in any doubt that we are in this for the long haul.
Further proof that we are in unprecedented times can be seen in the fact that everyone from Labour to the unions to business groups have all, by and large, supported the measures introduced by the Prime Minister. Jeremy Corbyn said it was “the right response to the coronavirus pandemic, and one we have been calling for”.
However, may I mention another matter? Right now I feel very much for those whose income has been slashed by this awful situation. I know that the Government has offered companies up to 80 per cent of their wages to keep employees on the books but I am equally concerned about solo traders, freelancers and small-business owners who often operate from home. These include people involved in childcare, the entertainment industry (we have quite a few in Beckenham), consultants, cabbies to name a few categories of folk. Their income has often dropped to nothing almost overnight. I made this point to the John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury last Thursday in my last appearance in the House of Commons (photo). I believe that solo traders, freelancers and small-business owners must also be supported to the tune of 80 per cent of their last years’ earnings (up to £2,500 a month) - just like those who may lose their permanent job as a result of Coronavirus. Hopefully such arrangements are being considered by the Chancellor now; I certainly support that idea as do many other MPs.
In conclusion, I am afraid the experts are warning that we must brace ourselves for the coming wave onslaught from this filthy virus. Many of us could die. It is that serious and we must do all we can to mitigate this very severe threat. The Prime Minister set out rules last night in his broadcast – they were not options. We must obey these draconian measures for the good of all of us – and not just the elderly and vulnerable. Young people are dying too.
One final thought, in these very troubled times let us all be kind and unselfish to one another. For instance, don’t hoard more stuff than you need from supermarkets; that’s unkind and selfish!