I am very happy to speak in this debate. This pandemic is devastating to so many: those who have lost loved ones, those who live in fear of leaving the house, those serving in the NHS, frontline workers, those worried that their jobs are to be lost, those worried that they will not get medical treatment quickly enough or those who do not seek it for fear they may have to go to the hospital, parents of children who should be doing exams this year and are beyond stressed, teachers who know the need to educate children but are concerned for safety—I cannot think of any group of people in the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland who are not affected by this in some way.
I think of a lady I know, who attends and looks after children and babies at the Ards Elim Church, and who has had devastating news. As we know, the hospitals and so on closed down to testing in Ards, particularly for those with cancer; the papers today referred to 3 million people waiting for appointments and assessments. This lady, unfortunately, has had devastating news of advanced cancer, so I am conscious that it is for that generation of hard-working, straight-talking, Queen-and-country-loving, God-honouring prayer women that I support the Prime Minister, the Minister and the Government in what they are trying to do and in their attempts to keep as many things running as possible.
I am conscious of those waiting for a CAT scan or MRI scan and of those with normal—if normal is the right word—health issues who are waiting for treatment. I also think of those with Alzheimer’s; the Alzheimer’s Society has sent me some figures showing that one in four of all coronavirus deaths between March and June were people with dementia. It also referred to the 92 million extra hours spent by family and friends, and the diagnosis rates in August 2020 that fell below the 66.7% target—it was nowhere near reached.
Perhaps when the Minister sums up the debate he can give me some succour in relation to cancer rates and Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Society has also said it would like to see nominated visitors to care homes classified as key workers, so that they can get help with PPE and infection control. Those may seem like difficult tasks, but the fact is that it is not enough just to keep people alive. The quality of that life must also be essential.
Turning very quickly to Northern Ireland, we have one of the highest rates in Europe in Strabane, but we also have some incredibly low rates of community transition in my own area of Strangford. That shows the difference there can be in a small region such as Northern Ireland, and it shows how we must be localised in how we respond to these things. I conclude by saying this: we must press on in education, press on with hospital appointments and press on with business. We must press on in a new way—the safest way possible for everyone in this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with space and respect for all—but we must still press on.