After 18 months of lockdown and legal restrictions on social contact, the last week has seen a big move back towards normality.
It was good to be back out on the doorsteps talking to residents - without wearing a face covering, plus great to catch up with friends I have not seen in a while at my first post lockdown event on Sunday, a barbecue arranged by TOADS SMC.
It was also good to see some local venues which had been closed since March 2020 re-open, although many hospitality businesses have chosen to keep measures such as table service.
The pandemic is not over, we still need to exercise caution, especially when travelling on public transport or in a crowded indoor space, but the early signs of case numbers starting to fall across the UK after the recent peak is encouraging.
The falling numbers will also reduce the impact of requirements to self-isolate which have become a real issue for local businesses, alongside some welcome changes made to the rules this week and further changes due on August 16.
As we all look forward to the busiest summer in our Bay for a generation, we should take a moment to thank those who have made it possible - our NHS and social care teams, the armed forces who supported them together with the other emergency services, the scientists who developed the vaccines and the thousands who volunteered to do their bit to help from manning the coronavirus helpline to helping at the Riviera vaccination centre.
Everyone of them has made a vital difference.
I was on the front bench in the House of Commons as the Government launched its new strategy for tackling Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).
The results of a recent call for evidence outlined the issues far too many women and girls face.
Crimes such as rape, female genital mutilation, stalking, harassment, and digital crimes such as cyber-flashing, ‘revenge porn’ and ‘up-skirting’ are taking place every day.
The strategy contains several welcome new initiatives, including a new national policing lead on violence against women and girls; a review of options to limit use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment in higher education and criminalising virginity testing, which some women and girls are being forced to undergo.
This follows the outlawing of non-fatal strangulation and criminalising threats to use revenge porn.
A lot of work will be needed to make a change on these issues and tackle the attitudes which can result in such behaviour.
Yet the very fact these issues are now getting such attention, when in the past they may have been hidden away or tolerated, is a sign of progress itself.
I have restarted face-to-face advice surgeries but telephone appointments can still be arranged if preferred.
Sadly, my surgeries must remain by appointment only at this stage.
Surgeries are for urgent personal matters, such as welfare, immigration, housing, problems accessing support and benefits.
For an appointment, you can either email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on 01803 214989.
You can also drop into my office at 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD between 10am and 1pm weekdays.
Please note you may have to wait outside if others attend at the same time.
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