'We can avoid further lockdowns' - Column from MP Duncan Baker

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker at Cley Windmill on his 2021 summer tour. 

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker at Cley Windmill on his 2021 summer tour. - Credit: Supplied by Duncan Baker

In his latest column, North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker reflects on what has been a busy summer, and looks ahead to the things that the next few weeks and months have in store.

Since last writing for the North Norfolk News, on the need to end the lockdown period, I hope our newly regained freedoms have given everyone that chance to finally start making the most of life.

As I made my way around the constituency on my Summer Tour, it has been fantastic to see North Norfolk come to life once again, especially during a period of the year which is so important to us.

I am keen to ensure that now we have come away from the previous restrictions, that ultimately, we do not return, in so far as it is possible.

We need to keep businesses open and ensure that our communities can continue to come together again.

It is encouraging that we have a handle on the case and hospitalisation rates in our part of the world, which allows us to sustain the relaxations.

The fact that we’ve been able to ease the previous curtailments has been fantastic in that I’ve really been able to make the most of my annual Summer Tour.

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I’ve ended up visiting 33 locations, listening to countless views which all enables me to represent you better in Parliament.

For those that caught me on the tour, you’ll know that I’ve been training hard for the London Marathon in aid of 26 local, North Norfolk-based charities.

MP Duncan Baker is training to run the London Marathon.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

Duncan Baker is training for the London Marathon to raise money for 26 local charities. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

I am delighted to say that we’ve now hit the £20,000 mark, out of the targeted £26,000 and so close to being able to give every charity a £1,000 for every mile I complete.

Thank you so much to all of you who have already donated. I know that your contributions will be so greatly valued by the charities and those that they support.

On the subject, I can’t fail to mention that I was honoured to have been able to complete my first marathon, in August, in memory of Benny Pitcher – a lovely little boy who heartbreakingly passed away from cancer, last year.

Benny Pitcher. 

Benny Pitcher. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Again, the way in which you have all rallied behind this cause is truly commendable and a testament to the characters of those that I am fortunate enough to represent.

Looking ahead and being a parent, I think it worth mentioning the thing I’m sure that has been sitting on every parent’s mind, over the past few weeks – back to school.

As we have seen in Scotland, where the schools are already back, we will see the number of cases rise again.

Social distancing signage in school

Schools have been issued with new Covid contingency measures. - Credit: PA

However, I do believe that we can avoid further lockdowns and can keep children in their physical settings, in the weeks ahead, if we continue to act sensibly.

As suggested, hospitalisation rates remain manageable and this should serve us well, in the not-too-distant future.

To uphold the safety of school pupils and to engender good educational outcomes, we have already offered jabs to those deemed particularly vulnerable, between the ages of 12 and 15, whilst 16 and 17-year-olds have already been offered their first dose, with the intention being that we will provide them with a second, as well.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has now declined to recommend vaccinating healthy children in the 12 to 15 years age group on the basis that the potential health benefit to children is so marginal that there are insufficient grounds to offer mass vaccinations for this age group.

Indeed, as I write this, I know many of you will be concerned about what the future may hold. Fundamentally, I hope that you can see that we are in a good position, both locally and nationally.

North Norfolk’s case rates continue to remain some of the very lowest in the country. And, we have provided full vaccination to some 43 million people, around 80pc of those eligible.

In tandem with continuing this programme we are also looking into the rolling-out of booster jabs, to provide another wall of protection.

Although we await the final advice on this, there is clearly a complex set of modelling scenarios to determine those that need the booster most, and how we progress.

Just as complex as the determination of how we learn to live with Covid, the Parliamentary timetable remains packed.

House of Commons

MPs debating the Afghanistan crisis in the House of Commons. - Credit: PA

So much of the legislative timetable will have a resounding impact on North Norfolk.

Whether it be the upcoming Planning Bill, Social Care reforms or decisions around the Triple Lock, I know how important these decisions are to you.

As ever, I am as approachable and open to hearing your views and I look forward to receiving them.