At the time of writing, more than ten million individuals have downloaded the NHS Test and Trace App. It is I believe the fastest download in the history of British made apps.

While many of us feel somewhat uncomfortable about downloading an app that tracks your movements, these difficult times require drastic action.

Last week, the Chancellor announced his Winter Economy Plan. These proposals replace the furlough scheme with a wage subsidy mechanism starting from November and running for six months.

It extends the five per cent VAT level for the tourism and hospitality sector to end of March 2021 and it extends the Government-backed loans from six years to ten years, effectively halving repayments.

These proposals will only have a significant positive impact on the economy if it can continue to remain open and functioning.

Any further lockdown will severely hamper the treasury’s ability to provide further relief and see the UK’s debt spiral further upwards.

So, what are we to do?

Well, the obvious first step is to download the NHS Test and Trace App. This piece of technology will see our ability to tackle the virus head-on as well as equip us with the ability to identify Covid clusters and lockdown local areas at greater speed.

It has undoubtedly had teething problems, but these are being identified quickly and addressed.

The second is that we must all recognise that we must live with the virus.

The Chancellor stated last week: “We must learn to live with it and live without fear.”

That might sound easier said than done but you only need to look at how many of us responded both during the lockdown and during the summer open months to recognise that in general, we acted in an appropriate manner.

Embodying the ‘Hands. Face. Space’ mantra will, of course, help but continuing to keep our distance while going about our daily lives is a necessary step.

Thirdly, we are now in a better position to not only provide tests but also to treat the virus.

That should provide some reassurance, while not reducing the need to act in a responsible manner.

The ramping up of the provision of tests has occurred at speed and it will continue to do so. We are, after all, providing one of the highest levels of tests in Europe.

If we can continue to follow these steps, then it is my belief that the South West will be able to remain open for business.

The boom in visitors that we have experienced over the last few months has brought with them the opportunity for our businesses to survive what has been a terrible trading year.

PLANNING

Away from Covid, perhaps the most contentious issue has been that of the Planning White Paper and the proposed methodology.

Both fall far short of the mark. Not only do current plans fail to recognise the variant economies of the UK, but they also fail to understand that jobs and infrastructure must come first.

We all want to be able to provide homes for our children and grandchildren but what good will those houses be if they are built at speed with poor infrastructure and in areas with sub-par levels of investment.

As it stands, these proposals must be reformed and I will be submitting my views today (Thursday, October 1) on the housing numbers and on the Housing White Paper consultation.

I believe there are a sizeable number of colleagues who share the same concern as me, especially across Devon.

We must use the opportunity to inform, engage and help reform the outdated planning laws we are all currently subjected to.

But we must also never lose sight of the value of neighbourhood plans and that local empowerment understands best what is needed for their areas.