First things first. Many congratulations to Leeds United on winning the Championship and being promoted to the Premier League. It’s been a long wait, but a bright future beckons now that the club is back where it belongs. I recently watched a television programme on the career of Marco Bielsa. It’s quite a story and he’s quite a manager.

The lockdown is now being eased and thankfully the number of new cases has declined considerably. However, there are still about 800 infections a day across the country and everyone is anxious about spikes in particular places (eg Leicester) or a more general increase in the autumn and winter.

There was quite a battle to get the Government to share localised information about infections with councils like Leeds, but we need this both to support local track and trace efforts and to let people know what the risk is in their own area. The fact remains that the virus is still out there.

As I write, the new law on the wearing of face coverings in shops and other premises has come into effect. As it so happens, it was back in January that I first asked the Health Secretary Matt Hancock what the advice was on wearing masks. He told me “ The wearing of face masks is not deemed clinically necessary now. Of course we keep that under review, and we will be guided by the science.”

As it turns out, scientific understanding of the part that masks and face coverings can play in helping to prevent the spread of the virus has developed over the months since then. A recently published study of cases in China found that “undocumented cases of infection”, or those with either mild or no symptoms, were significantly contagious and could have been responsible for nearly 80% of positive virus cases, while another study from Hong Kong estimates that up to 44% of virus transmission from an infected person can happen before that person starts showing any symptoms. In other words, covering up can help to reduce the risk that we will give the virus to someone else when we don’t yet know we have it.

I think that wearing a mask is common sense and I am perplexed by those who come out and protest about having to do so as if it was somehow an infringement of their liberty. After all, why do doctors and nurses treating patients with coronavirus wear masks and other protective equipment? Well the answer is obvious, and I suspect that those protesting wouldn’t dream of doing that job without wearing one. In some ways it reminds me of the fuss there was when wearing seatbelts first became compulsory. So, my advice to any protestors would be ‘stop complaining and do your bit’. Most people are covering up, and in case you are interested, yes, I do wear a mask in shops and also incidentally while queueing to vote in the House of Commons.

The latest figures from the Independent Food Aid Network show that there has been a 177% increase in the number of emergency food parcels distributed by independent food banks across the country in May this year compared to last year. I know from a number of constituency cases that having enough food is a real problem for some people.

I think we should applaud those who are working so hard to give practical help. That’s why I recently called in on Holbeck Together and Slung Low at The Holbeck, who have been running a local food hub there during the crisis, to thank them both for their efforts. As I talked to Alan Lane and his team, a stream of volunteers came in to collect their delivery addresses and crates of food to head out again. It’s a really impressive operation and it is much needed because there are families locally who are struggling.

What they and many other voluntary and community organisations are doing is a reminder of the importance of working together and looking out for one another as we face the future.

First published in the August 2020 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here https://southleedslife.com/mps-notebook-bielsa-face-masks-and-volunteers/ 

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