Delyth Jewell, who represents Plaid Cymru, is one of four regional Senedd Members serving the South Wales East region.
I find that the pandemic has had a very strange effect on my experience of time.
On the one hand it’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 weeks since Caerphilly was put in a local lockdown (10 weeks!), but on the other hand the days tend to crawl by at a snail’s pace unless I’m constantly working.
So time seems to be slowed down and speeded up all at once.
I was thinking about the passage of time earlier this week, when preparing my speech for a debate in the Senedd.
Plaid Cymru’s motion was calling on the Welsh Government to do more to support individuals and communities in areas with very high prevalence of Covid-19.
Our thinking was that it’s not enough to simply impose stricter rules on areas where the spread of the virus is high. Stricter rules should come hand in hand with more financial and social support.
This would mean, for example, if Caerphilly had to enter a local lockdown again, the Self Isolation Grant should be increased to £800. Safe, affordable childcare should be made available to people who can’t work from home. More funding should be made available to stop children from losing out. And mental health support should be rolled out across the county.
When you look at the areas that had to go into local lockdowns, and areas where cases of Covid-19 are still high, a pattern emerges.
What do these areas have in common? Caerphilly, Rhondda, Merthyr, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen…
They are all post-industrial areas that were affected by pit closures in the 80s. This is not a coincidence.
What we’re seeing is that people on the wrong end of inequalities are more likely to get infected and more likely to suffer serious illness when they do.
The reasons for this are interrelated and include low income, insecure employment, poor housing and being susceptible to illnesses.
People today are still paying the price for Margaret Thatcher’s decision to destroy our coal industry and replace it with nothing. That decision, taken 40 years ago, is still affecting us today.
These communities will continue to suffer disproportionally until regional inequalities within Wales are rooted out through economic revival, so this has to be central to the next Welsh Government’s thinking as it seeks to rebuild after this crisis.
These next few months are going to be tough, but we can already see the springs of hope with news of two successful vaccine trials.
So let’s face the future with hope and keep one eye on the horizon as we decide, together, as a community of communities, how we go about building a fairer and more prosperous nation once and for all.
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