It was back to business last week in Parliament as the Prime Minister set out our Covid winter plan, protecting the gains of our historic vaccine rollout that has allowed life to return to a sense of normality. Thanks to the efforts of the public, the NHS and our phenomenal vaccination programme, we were able to proceed with Step 4 of our roadmap on 19 July and return life to a sense of normality – but the winter months ahead will bring renewed challenges. That is why it was important to set out our autumn and winter plan for managing Covid – including offering booster jabs to priority groups 1 to 9, continuing with the Test, Trace and Isolate programme, continuing to provide free lateral flow tests at this stage, and keeping a range of ‘Plan B’ measures under review to help control transmission of the virus whilst minimising economic and social damage.
North Cornwall has done a fantastic job over the past two years but I am aware Covid is still out there - and the disease remains a risk. We are confident we can keep going with our plan to turn jabs into jobs - and protect the gains we have made together. We also announced that millions of the most vulnerable in society will be offered a Covid-19 booster vaccine from next week, giving them the strongest possible protection over the winter months. Our vaccine roll-out has been phenomenal - but we must do everything we can to prolong the protection our vaccines offer, particularly for the most vulnerable, as we head into the autumn and winter months.
Our economic recovery from Covid-19 is continuing. Our unemployment rate here in North Cornwall is 3.8% compared to the UK average of 5.2%, and whilst this is higher than before the pandemic, we have seen a downward trend over the past few months. I know businesses and employees across North Cornwall have been working exceptionally hard these past months and I am sure many will have welcomed the busy summer we’ve had as they try and put the difficult months behind them.
Wadebridge residents have contacted me this weekend after one of the largest dental practices in the area terminated their NHS services. My team and I worked with them on this for several years and tried to support practice and protect NHS services for North Cornwall constituents. This included dozens of meetings with the NHS, Ministers and briefings to the Department. I have a huge case file in my office of all the work that was done on behalf of the practice but as you'll appreciate I can't go into a lot of detail. I do know they were very unhappy with the terms of the NHS dental contract but ultimately they're a business and if they don't want to continue to provide NHS services that's their decision. I am disappointed but I will be meeting with the new Dental Minister in the Department for Health as a matter of urgency to work up a solution.
Finally, there was some very exciting news last week when a new massive undersea transatlantic communications cable was brought ashore at Crooklets Beach. The Google data cable was landed in Bude last week and once operational it will have the capacity to handle 17.5 million people streaming 4K video concurrently. The cable has been laid between New York in the United States, Bilbao in Spain and Bude over several months, and is expected to be operational in 2022. It was part of a new generation of lines that connect continents along the ocean floor with an additional layer of security beyond what's available over the public internet. Jayne Stowell, who manages Google’s cable operations said that Bude was chosen because it was an ideal, nicely protected beach and adjacent to a lot of the infrastructure needed.