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MP Jo Churchill is optimistic as the end of lockdown comes into sight



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I know how challenging this past year has been to constituents and businesses, but I am hopeful the Covid recovery roadmap helps everyone start to plan for the coming months.

This cautious approach, which considers the data and makes an assessment based on four tests, is the right one and has my full support.

Ensuring we get the timing right, any increase in case numbers can be significantly limited and I believe the cautious approach set out by the Prime Minister will achieve this.

Jo Churchill (44852368)
Jo Churchill (44852368)

There is no credible road to a zero Covid Britain, or world, and we cannot carry on indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing, and the life-chances of our children.

From March 8, restrictions will begin to be eased in four steps, starting with a return to face-face education.

At all stages, any easing of restrictions will be taken in a measured way in order to assess the impact of previous steps, ensuring we do not slide back is vital.

There will be four tests that must be passed before progress can be made:

- Vaccine deployment continues successfully

- Vaccines are reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated

- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS

- The assessment of risk is not changed by new variants of Concern.

However, with the current pace of vaccine rollout across the country, I am hopeful we will meet the dates set out in the roadmap. We are certainly one of the front runners now with the unflagging work put in by our health professionals and volunteers.

The pandemic has been particularly tough on our high streets. The recovery roadmap allows our high street businesses to begin preparation to welcome customers back into their shops. Indeed, I know many had already worked hard to ensure they have all the Covid secure measures in place in order be open by April 12. This will help to restart the economy and allow high streets across the country to spring back to life – while utilising Covid-secure measures to ensure we keep the risk of infection down to avoid the possibility a further wave.

As we look to recovery, we need to ensure our high streets become a destination for people, with a mix of retail, hospitality and leisure. The way we use our high street has changed and this needs to be accommodated and looked at as an opportunity, this is just one of the many reasons I support the shop local campaign to support independent businesses on our high street alongside the BID and other business organisations.

We have fantastic independent businesses in Bury, some of which have had to seek bigger premises as they are so popular including the fabulous Wright’s café who have moved up to Cornhill.

We have to be imaginative and diversify, putting new tourist and residential accommodation, bars and entertainment facilities in the centre of town seems sensible, to ensure our town continues to thrive.

Of course, every high street is different. Stowmarket has some great businesses from Baldwins, Stannards and Inces on the High Street and the recently opened Italian restaurant and Regal redevelopment will add to the mix of offerings.

If we can build on this with good independent businesses and the museum just a stone’s throw from the town centre, I believe Stowmarket too can become a unique and attractive destination in the centre of Suffolk.

We also have hidden gems around the constituency, with fantastic independent traders in Needham Market, Haughley, Woolpit and many more of our villages in between.

So, as and when our journey through the roadmap allows us to visit our town centres again, I hope we will support them with gusto.

Jo Churchill is MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket

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