It is difficult to focus on much else right now other than the global outbreak of COVID-19. One of my roles at Westminster is to sit on the House of Commons Commission, which is a small group of MPs which directs how the parliamentary estate responds to things like this. We will be meeting early this week to discuss how the House of Commons responds in order to minimise the risk that we play in contributing to the virus spreading further. Whilst we should all remain calm about this and follow the government guidance about how to keep ourselves safe, it is important for MPs to consider the fact that there are 650 MPs and hundreds more staff who travel into London and then back to their constituencies most weeks of the year. At a time when a number of organisations and businesses are limiting travel, it is vital that we consider what role we play in all of this. Whilst I cannot prejudge what the Commons Commission will decide to do, I am confident that we will come to a measured decision, which is in line with current medical advice.
The media have a lot to answer for in terms of spreading hysteria about COVID-19. Over the weekend it became evident that most of Perthshire’s supermarkets had been completely wiped out of hand sanitiser, tissues, toilet paper, pain killers and hand soap. Whilst it is vital that people are realistically prepared for any possible local outbreak, it is important that we take a measured and reasonable approach which is considerate to our friends and neighbours. Over the weekend we have already seen anecdotal evidence of people who require these items because of a weakened immune system struggle to buy them. It is unacceptable that some people are being put in danger because of the panic buying that has been caused by certain sections of the media.
The most important things that we can do to halt the spread of COVID-19 are all commonsense measures; such as regular hand washing, keeping homes and workplaces hygienic and following the advice of the NHS if anyone starts to display symptoms. The most up-to-date advice from NHS Scotland is available here - https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/coronavirus-covid-19 and it will be updated regularly should the situation in Scotland change.
The balance of being suitably prepared, but not panic-stricken about this, will be the key to ensure maximum public safety and ensuring that our most vulnerable still have access to vital supplies. Whilst I know that supplies are already being increased to help mitigate some of the shortages we were seeing over the weekend, it is vital that we take a responsible approach to only buying what we need once stocks return to the expected level.
This article was published in The Blairgowrie Advertiser on 10th March 2020