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Mayor's Blog: Eating for England (well, for Cambridgeshire & Peterborough...)

13 August 2020

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I doubt I’m alone in suspecting that some people are deliberately trying to ‘misunderstand’ the careful balance of Covid-beating initiatives being put forward by the government and health chiefs  - on the one hand, to jumpstart the economy and secure jobs, on the other, to protect life and suppress the spread of this dangerous virus.

For example, I’ve heard people decry the hugely popular and rather imaginative ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ campaign on the grounds that there’s a simultaneous campaign which urges overweight people to drop a few pounds to give themselves the best chance if they do catch the killer bug.

I’m sorry, I just don’t see a clash.  It isn’t Either/Or. Enjoying a once-in-a-while meal subsidised by the Chancellor to help local eateries get back on their feet doesn’t mean we can’t also improve our diet, exercise more, and shed superfluous ballast so we can fight Covid if we get infected.  

In truth, the message is not new that lugging extra weight (and not taking steps - probably about 10,000! - to get fitter) can damage our health.

What’s really new and important is the rising evidence that people carrying less fat seem to be surviving Covid more frequently and recovering more quickly. So I think most reasonable people would agree that we should just step up and shed our excess baggage with some summery slimmery.

And exercise needn’t be confined to leisure – if we change our commuting habits to leave a lighter, greener footprint, then we can help reduce pollution as well.   

Active travel like cycling and walking is win-win: good for health, good for the community, and good for the environment. This summer gives us a few months in which to build our resilience. From fat to fit, it’s our chance to get healthy before winter hits with the fistful of bugs that we’re told could complicate Covid and put us at avoidable risk.

So those who make a fuss about wearing masks and social distancing, or try to pick holes in campaigns that are striving to strike the tricky balance between protection and freedom, between health and wealth, surely need to get with the programme.  It’s not rocket science, it’s simple common sense.

And community sense.  

Help yourself and the restaurants and cafes around your community by having the odd meal out. Protect yourself and your community by covering your nose and mouth in confined spaces where the virus can leap or drift or cough or laugh or sneeze from person to person - and stay distanced to impede its progress. Get fitter. Oh, and ‘Shop Local’ – in your mask, of course! – to support the businesses in the community that might go bust if we neglect them.

We can’t relax. We need to care for ourselves and our community just as much now as we did in March. The furlough scheme is winding down, recession is biting, and job losses are on the rise. Each of us has the personal and economic power to help fight back by making a targeted effort to shop locally and keep businesses afloat.  Every pound we spend strengthens our community’s ability to thrive – and every pound we lose strengthens our health, and our own ability to survive.