Coronavirus continues to dominate our everyday lives, and will continue to do so for the months ahead.
As I write, across the United Kingdom we have been informed of over 2,000 deaths to date, 18 at the Royal Stoke and County Hospital.
Never could I have envisioned death on such a scale alongside restrictions on our movement and the largest government bailout in our country’s history.
Coronavirus is the biggest threat we have faced in peacetime since the Spanish Influenza in 1918. Life will continue to be uncomfortable for us for the foreseeable future, and sadly the worst is yet to come. But we will recover from this.
I have always been a firm believer that adversity brings the best out of us as a nation. You only have to look at the call made by the Prime Minister for an army of NHS volunteers to see this.
The recruitment target was 250,000, but latest figures show over 750,000 individuals have signed up to help up to 1.5 million of the most vulnerable among us.
Volunteers are putting others, often strangers, before themselves to deliver medicines from pharmacies, drive patients to appointments, bring them home from hospital, or by making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home.
Add on top of that the 20,000 retired former NHS staff, like doctors and nurses, who have come forward to serve once again.
Another call, made by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, for ventilators to be built was met by the ingenuity of businesses such as local manufacturer JCB, who are playing their part in the mass production of these urgently needed ventilators.
It is times like these you understand why people are still proud of Britain’s bulldog spirit.
In Stoke-on-Trent, Kidsgrove and Talke, I have had the honour of interacting with local businesses, voluntary groups and individuals who are doing everything they can to support the local community.
Individuals like Richard Evans, from Kidsgrove Tesco, who is going door to door delivering food parcels to the elderly and vulnerable, alongside local organisations like the Samaritans, to local business and football club owners Carol and Kevin Shanahan, who are using Port Vale FC as the distribution centre for food parcels for those most in need in the north of our city.
The generosity and warmth of the people across North Staffordshire cannot be rivalled, and I am proud to be a member of our community.
I want to say thank you to our teachers and other school staff who continue to be on the frontline in unprecedented circumstances.
I want to thank our police, pharmacists, firemen and women, Community First Responders, delivery drivers, supermarket workers, social carers, council officers at our local authorities, our armed forces, voluntary groups and every individual who is putting themselves forward to serve the nation during this global health pandemic.
I want to say a special thank you, on behalf of all my constituents in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, to the incredible staff who work in our NHS.
You are heroes. To see you bravely put yourselves in harm’s way, day in and day out, to keep us safe is exactly why we are right to be proud of the National Health Service.
When we took to our doorsteps at 8pm on March 26 to clap for our carers, I admit a tear came to my eye.
To inject such positivity when it can feel you are shrouded in despair gives me the belief that we will bounce back from this, stronger as a community with more aspiration for a better and brighter future.
It is now up to us as individuals to continue to play our part.
I know how hard it is to be confined in your homes, but I am so grateful to every one of you.
You know the rules about essential travel only and staying two metres away when out and about.
Now we need one simple, final effort – stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives.