Today we face an unexpected new future and, in many ways, we all have to face it alone. It’s up to every one of us to do our best to keep safe for our loved ones, for our neighbours, for our community, for our country, and for ourselves.
But we don’t have to do it selfishly. We need to do it in a way that reinforces our humanity, not diminishes it. We may face it alone, but we can face it together.
Kindness was never more important than it will be in the days and weeks to come. We have wonderful heroes already shining within our community - the brave and good-hearted NHS altruists, risking their lives daily for us; the researchers tirelessly seeking a vaccine; the men and women keeping the pharmacies, supermarkets and corner shops going; the packers and stackers; the growers and harvesters; the lorry crews and delivery drivers working through the night to bring supplies to keep us all alive.
They’re doing their bit 24/7 and it’s up to us to do ours – to work together by staying apart. So although we’ve got some of the most beautiful towns and cities in the whole UK, and some of the loveliest spring countryside, we must do as we’ve been asked, and stay home. Keep our distance. Don’t shop greedily. Look out for our neighbours and be kind. We don’t have to breach social distancing to reach out and share.
For our part, the Combined Authority is doing everything in its power to help bring each corner of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough through this. I know that thousands of workers across our community confront the unknown with dread. I will work flat out to support local businesses in their battle to stay afloat and to keep their employees in jobs.
My top priority will be to see employers get the help pledged by government to pay staff who can’t work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than laying people off, the government will pay 80% of wages for staff kept on, covering up to £2,500 per person a month. I’m determined to ensure that every worker who can benefit from this measure does so.
These businesses, big and small, are the beating heart of our community. We must fight for every one and stop them going under. One day – and let’s hope it’s soon - we’ll blink back into a world made safe again. And we’ll need our shops and garages, the clubs and pubs, the gyms and hairdressers, the market stalls and eateries…you name it, we’ll need it.
These are unprecedented times but as a community, we can and will come through. So let’s stand alone together and be united apart. Let’s not help the virus pass from any one of us to any other.
And above all, let’s remember to be kind.