Why Labour wants exit strategy to lead to a fairer society – Rachel Reeves

IT has been really heartening amid all the terrible news 
about coronavirus to see some touching examples of people’s kindness in the toughest of times.

Hospital workers take part in a protest calling on the Government to provide PPE for all health workers.
Hospital workers take part in a protest calling on the Government to provide PPE for all health workers.

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We have shown our support for health workers by getting out on our doorsteps to applaud our health and social care workers who are on the frontline in the national effort to defeat this lethal virus.

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And there are the gestures 
of thoughtfulness happening daily across Yorkshire and elsewhere as communities pull together and do what they can to help.

A minute's silence was held on Tuesday to honour the key workers who have died from Covid-19.

In my constituency of Leeds West, 13-year-old Faith from Bramley and sister Piper, aged 11, put out a box of their favourite books for other children to enjoy and help them ease the downsides of isolation.

Volunteers in Kirkstall are making caps for nurses at the LGI and St James’s University Hospital so they can cover their hair at work and cut the risk of infection. There are many more examples of these kind of selfless actions.

People are doing their best. The vast majority are sticking by the guidelines on social distancing to help us reduce 
the awful number of people 
who have lost their lives to Covid-19.

However, it is vital the Government builds on those efforts with the right strategy to deal with the impact of coronavirus and develop an exit strategy as we move out of lockdown and strive to rebuild our economy.

Pressure is growing on the Government to do more to hlep key workers with the fight against Covid-19.

Like everyone else, I want 
the Government’s strategy against coronavirus to succeed.
I want us all to be able to see our 
friends and family again, for our children to get back to school 
and people to get back to their jobs.

However, as I said in Parliament this week, the Government must level with people about its plans and show us there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The Government must also address the huge problems with the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to health and social care workers, the shortage of tests and the rising death toll in care homes.

My new job in Keir Starmer’s team as Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster means I am responsible for putting questions about some of these issues to the Government and pushing them to come up with better solutions. This year is the 72nd anniversary of the NHS and there has never been a time when we have appreciated and needed the health service as much as we do in this present crisis.

Yet, a survey by the Royal College of Physicians found 27 per cent of doctors are still being forced to reuse single-use protective equipment, more than 30 per cent do not have access to protective gowns and just 50 per cent have access to protective goggles.

The Government has to do better and get more protective equipment to all those who need it in our hospitals and care homes.

I welcome the Government’s promised expansion of testing in care homes. But the overall number of deaths in care homes tripled in just three weeks, due in large part to the spread of coronavirus. Far more still needs to be done to protect both residents and staff.

People are understandably anxious about the future and what the weeks ahead hold for them.

Other countries such as France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia, Scotland and Wales have all mapped out some kind of post-lockdown plan. The Government must now do the same.

It is crucial it gets the balance right if we are to avoid a second wave of the virus and we are to move towards defeating it and building a national recovery plan.

After this crisis we are all desperate for things to return to normal. But it is clear that some things must be different and will have to change.

This terrible period has made us reassess how we value who is really important in our society.

Care workers, our emergency services, delivery drivers, hospital porters and cleaners, transport and supermarket workers all have a new place in our hearts and we need to remember and reward their work in future.

It is now crystal clear who 
are the key workers in our economy. It is through their selflessness, bravery and sheer hard work that we will come through this crisis.

Many of them are on the minimum wage and often in working in the most precarious parts of the economy.

When it came to pay rises 
and getting a fair deal, they were too often at the back of the queue. Their sacrifice and dedication has undoubtedly earned them a place at the front as we develop a national recovery plan.

We all need to give serious thought about how we go forward and construct a better society and an economy that works for everyone.

The Government should hold talks with teachers, trade unions, businesses and local authorities to develop an exit strategy so everyone can plan for the future.

For now, I would encourage everyone to support each other and hopefully we will emerge from this with a shared resolve 
to work on building a fairer society.

Rachel Reeves is Labour MP for Leeds West and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

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