I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today.
It is incredible how quickly things change. The last time that I properly spoke in this Chamber about coronavirus was in September when virus rates were lower, restrictions were looser and hospitals were emptier. Covid continues to dominate us in a way that we never wanted it to do and our lives remain shaped by the battle against it. Throughout it all, however, there has been one constant: the continuing resolve of everyone to get through this.
I want to say thank you to everyone in North East Derbyshire. We know how difficult this is. We know that our ability to work, to love, to live, and to offer support are being affected every single day, and we are grateful for their forbearance at this difficult time. And in the past few days, the reason for that endurance is becoming clearer. Our job of suppressing the virus was never for nothing. All along, we have been building a bridge to a time when we have other weapons to fight this problem, and the announcements of this week may be showing that we are actually starting to get there. Light is on the horizon, yet we know that we will not get there immediately. Even if solutions are coming, we still face soul-searching questions.
The first big question remaining will be one of evidence. Every day, massive decisions are being made on our behalf and we are grappling with the foundations upon which these are made. In searching for evidence, we face a blizzard of data and hypotheses. Right now, within a few clicks, the web will tell us both that the case fatality rate is negligible and that it is substantial, that tests work and that they do not, that masks are life-savers and that they can be life-takers. Should we wish, we can literally choose our facts, even though only one set of those premises is actually true. It is no wonder that constituents are confused.
That goes to the second challenge that also bedevils us: uncertainty. Our natural instinct is to recoil from ambiguity, yet this virus forces us to deal with it. There is uncertainty about how it works and how it will act in the winter. The virus forces us to make decisions now on the basis of what might happen in 40 days’ time. It is a challenging mix, which, quite understandably, has worn people down. Yet our job is to deal with the world as it is, not how we wish it to be. For those residents who are frustrated or anxious, I say that I am, too. But if there were a quick answer, it would have been found already. If there were a single solution, it would have been used. We are here because, for now, we think that what we are doing is proportionate and the least worst option while we wait for the alternatives, and those alternatives are coming. This cannot, must not, will not last forever, but, for the first time in our history, we may actually be able to turn back a pandemic in mid-flow. If that happens, it will be the most remarkable test of our ingenuity, our resolve and our willingness to get there. I say hold on, we will get there.