IT has been an extraordinary time in so many ways and last Sunday’s message from the Queen – only the fourth special broadcast to the nation in her long reign – encapsulated how serious and unprecedented is the challenge currently facing the country.

Her rallying call was to see through this period of challenge with the same quiet determination that has stood us in good stead in previous generations, and I have no doubt that people in Worcester will rise to that challenge. When we do, we can be confident that, as she has said, better days lie ahead.

Working from home, like so many people over recent weeks, I have been dividing my time between taking up constituents’ concerns and enquiries in my role as their local MP, and Government work in my ministerial capacity. I’ve been attending regular Cobra conference calls as the response nationally is coordinated across health, public services, the international effort and the economy.

Yesterday, along with all Worcestershire’s MPs, it was useful to be updated on a teleconference with senior Worcestershire NHS management across all our trusts, to get updated on the latest developments to manage our response to the virus and ensure that as MPs we can continue to support them to provide vital health services in Worcestershire.

Massive interventions such as the job retention scheme; supporting millions of people’s incomes through the crisis, the business interruption loan scheme; providing hundreds of billions of interest free debt to keep businesses going and the scaling up of tests to 100,000 per day require careful planning and coordination across government.

I know that not everyone’s immediate questions on every detail can be answered straight away and I am pushing colleagues in Government for more and more answers, challenging where I can see any gaps in the systems of support and taking up individual cases, whether of constituents trapped overseas or of people who need help with the guidance. I was pleased to see the announcement of billions of pounds being written off NHS trust debt and the stepping up of provision of PPE to frontline staff in every part of the country. I was also pleased to see another huge announcement of help for the self-employed which will benefit thousands of constituents in Worcester, but I will keep taking up the cases of those who feel they have not yet had the support that they need.

Whilst Parliament has now gone into recess having passed the essential emergency legislation to support the powers needed for the coronavirus challenge without a single division, the work continues and all Government departments are working flat out.

I am glad that our councils too are stepping up their activity to support local residents through the ‘here to help’ programme organised by county and the massive efforts they are making to support people in social care, to the business rates relief and grant schemes being managed by the city.

Amidst all this we see so many examples of generosity of spirit; from the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who have come forward to support our NHS, to the neighbours doing shopping for food and medicines on behalf of the most vulnerable, to the key workers keeping going in so many vital roles – from policing, education, health, care food production and distribution and the manufacture of vital protective equipment.

When people flock to their doorsteps to clap for carers each week we are absolutely thanking those on the NHS front line, but also the millions who stand behind them.

The news that the Prime Minister had been admitted to intensive care is a reminder that this virus can strike anyone and I am grateful for the goodwill and messages from constituents in Worcester wishing the Prime Minister well. I am also grateful for the cross-party support that has been shown during this pandemic; putting aside party politics and focusing on getting the country through uncertain times.

We will get through this period of extraordinary challenge and I am confident that our country and our city will be at the forefront of the recovery that follows. For now, the best advice I can give to constituents is to support the national effort to control the spread of the virus by staying home whenever possible and following social distancing at all times.