I am keen that this period of national restrictions is as brief as possible, particularly so that young people can return to their education. In the main, the guidance is being followed and I thank my North Devon constituents, who have consistently followed it and ensured that our cases continue to remain below the national average. However, I want to ensure that the guidance at this critical time really does tackle the spread of the new variant.
I very much hope that the Minister may be able to detail where transmission is currently taking place, because although many residents who live near beauty spots are concerned about visitors, my understanding remains that the risk of transmission outside remains low. Our focus in respect of any tightening of restrictions should be on where transmission is currently most prevalent.
While we are at level 5 of the covid alert system, we all need to do everything we can to reduce pressure on the NHS, not only by following the guidance to reduce covid transmission, but by reducing other activities that could put further pressures on our treasured health service. As soon as this alert level 5 passes—and it will—we must be ready to roll back the restrictions as rapidly as possible. The damage done through lockdown goes far beyond those who contract covid directly.
I wish to take this opportunity to highlight the work of the National Bereavement Partnership, which was set up from my constituency in the first lockdown and now offers national freephone support, seven days a week, from 7 am to 10 pm. To date, the partnership has provided more than 3,000 hours of helpline services. Yesterday, its founder, the remarkable Michaela Willis, highlighted to me the living losses that the partnership deals with each day. Covid-19 does not come alone. Bereavement does not come alone. Ambiguous losses that affect everyday functioning are compounding deaths and/or bring their own grief journey—everything from loss of income, loss of jobs, loss of way of life, loss of hopes and dreams and loss of life as people know it, to homelessness and financial deprivation.
I wish to take this chance to say thank you to Michaela and her team. I very much hope that they will be able to offer many others help through the dark hours that the steadily rising death toll no doubt creates, and that we can all look to a brighter, less restrictive future thanks to the excellent vaccination programme that we have begun to roll out.