By Sally-Ann Hart MP

The Covid-19 pandemic is the greatest health emergency we have faced, not only as a community and as a country, but globally.

No politician wants to see their country almost grind to a halt. No politician seeks elected office wanting to close businesses, put employees in a position of being furloughed, and bring hardship to the small and medium businesses that are the backbone of our economy. This Government has put in substantial financial measures to support businesses and individuals, whilst public health and maintaining the health of our citizens has been paramount in the decisions taken by this Government, as advised by medics and science. Yes, these decisions have been tough, but they have been necessary in order to ensure that the capacity of the NHS – the ventilators, ICU beds and staffing was never exceeded, which would have increased loss of life. On this the Government strategy has been a success. At no point has NHS capacity ever been exceeded in this crisis. It shows that our fantastic health service, and the wonderful staff that work for it, have risen to the greatest challenge they have faced and delivered the best possible care available to all those who needed it.

Now as we move through the peak of the crisis and look to the weeks and months ahead, we can begin to think of ways in which we can rebuild. However, we must rebuild on the back of maintaining the health of our residents. We cannot at any stage risk a second, more deadly return of the virus.

We know that Covid-19 has had an impact on the local economy and that businesses dependent on tourism have already taken a big hit. What measures are taken in the next few months for these businesses to bounce back will be fundamental – an issue that I am acutely aware of and working to address.

I was encouraged by the First Secretary’s response to my question in Parliament last week, that the Government is actively working to find ways to support towns like ours, and to encourage domestic tourism once the immediate health crisis has passed. In addition, following Mr Raab’s response, I had virtual meetings with Becky Shaw, the Chief Executive of East Sussex County Council, and Nigel Huddleston MP, Minister for Tourism, and I joined a virtual roundtable discussion with the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) to discuss economic recovery for our area.

I am incredibly encouraged by the determination and enthusiasm of all these individuals and groups who, behind the scenes, are finding new and innovative ways to reboot our local economy and ensure that our towns come out of this crisis stronger. Only last week the SELEP signed off on the Coastal Communities Economic Prospectus; the Tourism Minister is already spearheading discussions on supporting local tourism hotspots like ours, and encouraging growth in domestic tourism once the crisis has passed; and I am fully supportive of Hastings and Rother local authorities in ensuring that support available to businesses is improved and gets to those who most need it.

I am determined, in these unprecedented times, that our towns come out of this crisis stronger. We are being challenged on a public health and an economic front, but these challenges are not insurmountable. The creativity and enterprising nature of residents across Hastings and Rye encourages me; together we will find a way. I have always been ambitious for local residents, and I know there is a huge amount of talent and potential to unlock as we come out of this crisis. I will do all I can as the MP to ensure that we all benefit from the opportunities that are surely ahead of us.

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