Boris Johnson recently announced the first, gradual steps towards reopening our society.
The most significant step being that those who cannot work from home should start having conversations with their employers about returning to work - guidance for safe working is now available on Gov.uk.
Another key change is that you can now spend time outdoors and exercise as often as you like, provided you stay two metres apart from people who are outside of your household.
Social distancing remains as important as ever if we are going to keep the infection rate down.
Last week, I caught up with local members of the National Farmers’ Union. During the conference call, we discussed a variety of issues and I found it useful to listen to NFU members from across the Forest of Dean constituency and their experiences during these difficult times.
I also had a useful discussion with members of our local tourism and hospitality sector including The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Tourism’s Co-Chair, Helen O’Kane, and representatives of businesses including The Speech House Hotel, Tudor Farmhouse Hotel & Restaurant, Forest Hills Golf Club and the Dean Heritage Centre.
On the video conference call, I listened to the challenges they are currently facing and received feedback on what support the Government should prioritise for the sector in the future.
It was also welcome news that the Chancellor has extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) until the end of October.
Starting from August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff.
The employer payments will substitute for part of the contribution the taxpayer is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary.
The CJRS is just one part of the Government’s world-leading economic response to coronavirus, including an unprecedented package for the self-employed, tax deferrals, grants, loans and guarantees.
In fact, just under £19 million of Government grant funding had been distributed through 1,755 grants to businesses within the Forest of Dean by the District Council.
I will continue to engage with individuals and businesses across the constituency, passing on feedback and concerns to Ministers directly.