By Harriett Baldwin, MP for West Worcestershire

Readers will know that there have been very few new cases of Covid-19 in our county this month. Every day the Department of Health releases numbers at District Council level and we have had fewer than five new cases locally in West Worcestershire this month and of course, that’s with much more testing.

I get regular briefings from the hard-working team at Worcestershire County Council’s local resilience forum and the health service management teams and I am really pleased to see that at time of writing, there were no longer any Covid patients in the county’s intensive care wards. The ‘test and trace’ system is up and running and anyone who needs a test can get one locally, quickly and efficiently. These are all crucial steps as we try to get people back to work and unlock the economy.

Non-essential shops are now back open and I’ve talking to retailers in Malvern, Tenbury and Pershore about the challenges they are facing to welcome customers back through their doors. They’ve all made enormous efforts to re-open in a way that is safe for you. Please get out and support your local shops and high streets.

Over coming weeks, many more businesses will open in a Covid-secure way – pubs and restaurants will be starting to trade again and tourist attractions and museums, places of worship and zoos are coming out of lockdown. Most importantly, Worcestershire schools have done a great job of welcoming back many of their pupils and all will be open by September.

The virus hasn’t gone away completely, though, and we all need to keep washing our hands, wear masks on public transport and stay at home if we get symptoms. Testing capacity is now at very high levels. Many have asked specifically about regular testing for NHS and social care staff. The advice of the Chief Medical Officer means that priority is given to NHS staff with symptoms, regular testing of asymptomatic staff in situations where there is an incident or outbreak, and regular surveillance testing across staff. Staff working with patients on wards, for example, will benefit from regular testing far more than NHS staff working in offices or administrative roles where they do not come into regular contact with patients. This approach is crucial as, when prevalence of the virus is very low, the risk of misleading results is higher.

Thanks to your amazing efforts, life is beginning to return to a new normal and as ever, please don’t hesitate to contact your local MP if you need advice or help.