The coronavirus is clearly very worrying. It has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation and almost every country is affected.

The situation is very fast moving, changing from one day to the next.

Government guidance is to wash our hands regularly or to isolate ourselves if we have symptoms. And stay well away from anyone who might be vulnerable, such as older folks or people with existing health conditions that make them weaker.

In times of national crisis we must all pull together and follow expert advice. But as the Official Opposition it is also right that my side probe and test the government’s strategy.

There has been some criticism because we are the only country in Europe not – at the time of writing – to have closed down schools or enforced a stricter lock-down. It may stop the spread but has other consequences. For example closing schools means parents must take time off work to look after their children.

Or worse still, grandparents look after them – making senior citizens more vulnerable to infection.

I am also very disappointed that the government has been giving general guidance not to attend events, rather than enforcing an official ban.

An official ban would trigger insurance pay-outs to support businesses and community groups through this crisis. No official ban means no insurance pay outs. Which is good for the big insurance companies in the City of London, but not good for shops, hotels, pubs, small businesses and large event companies in Chester and elsewhere. Some arrangement has now been made but it’s still too woolly.

Of course, it could be that the UK insurance industry would collapse if this happened. But in that case the government should be honest with us and say so.

It’s the same with testing for corona virus. We can’t track the spread of the disease without testing but the government has largely stopped this. If it’s because we don’t have the capacity to test, they should be honest with us.

I’ve received many offers from constituents to help vulnerable residents who have to isolate. We must balance this support with safeguarding for vulnerable citizens and not give a chance to conmen and thieves to abuse this crisis for nefarious ends, posing as good samaritans – so we must keep an eye out for our friends and neighbours. The council is working with partners in the voluntary, health, charity and business sectors on a coordinated community response. Please check the council website at cheshirewestanchester.gov.uk to find out more.

This is a national, indeed international crisis. We don’t know how long it will last or how badly the country will be affected. So let’s pull together, and get through it all together.

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