Opinion: ‘Time to look ahead, not just react to events as they happen’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council writes:

Sunday, 6th September 2020, 4:33 am
Flu vaccinations are important.

Autumn is nearly upon us, and before we launch into this busy season, I’d like to point out that it’s not all gloom and doom out there.

Local and national governments have continually been wrongfooted by the coronavirus crisis, but the people of Peterborough have shown that they are far more adaptable and resilient than this administration.

I was cheered by a recent article in this newspaper in which Leonie McCarthy, the chief executive of Peterborough Council for Voluntary Service (PVCS) (pictured) pointed out how the voluntary sector had come together so well to meet the challenges posed by the coronavirus. Our charities have filled in many gaping holes in our pandemic response; they deserve our thanks.

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Individual Peterborians have shown resilience too: another feature in this newspaper showed how residents were turning their gardens into bars and recreation areas. It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention; ingenuity and creativity definitely help it along.

I know that some are still in lockdown because of pre-existing conditions.

There are many individual stories of kindness and generosity, in which neighbour helps out neighbour, delivering food and supplies, and having socially distanced conversations shouted over garden fences.

All these signs indicate to me that we are learning and adapting; our lives have been significantly altered by the virus. Those who don’t believe wearing masks and washing one’s hands are a select and irresponsible few. Most people look on gatherings of many that don’t involve social distancing as being a gamble. There are new restrictions on life as we know it.

Yet, we are finding ways around it. We as a city are adapting, changing; yes, it’s difficult, but in the end we will thrive.

It is a process: we need an administration that is thinking about adaptation and resilience.

What is it that we are going to need to support the shift in the economy, public health requirements and our behaviour?

How will our leisure facilities need to change? What can we do to support more remote working? How can we bolster the charity sector just in case there is a second spike in infections?

What can we do to continue to support those who are still shielding by necessity?

As September dawns and the nights grow colder, and the leaves change colour, people will do their best to resume the normal patterns of the year.

They will likely get on trains or go into offices: how do we get people to do that in such a way as to maximise safety?

The nights will grow longer, we will soon have another holiday season ahead. So: How do we manage festivities in the city in such a way that there are still celebrations but they are done in a manner which doesn’t create a public health catastrophe?

The flu season will come along.

Are we adequately prepared with stocks of flu’ vaccine? It’s going to be particularly important everyone gets the jab so as to minimise the risk.

What public awareness campaigns are we doing to ensure this?

Autumn is nearly here and there is much to do. A forward-thinking administration would look ahead, not just react to events as they happen. Unfortunately, we don’t have one of those. However, the Labour Group will push them to do more.