While coronavirus has unleashed an outpouring of volunteering and community spirit in the UK, it may be time to re-evaluate globalisation, and our relationship with China, argues regular contributor John Baron MP

Looking over my column from last month, I am reminded how quickly things can change. Then I wrote about the forthcoming Budget, and my proposals for the new Chancellor's first financial statement. Whilst a number of my suggestions were incorporated in the 11th March Budget, these announcements were themselves superseded by subsequent events as the Government grappled with the enormity of the coronavirus emergency.

The Chancellor was absolutely right to make clear from the start of his Budget statement, and subsequently, that the Government will make available whatever funds are required to help the NHS stay on top of the health emergency. This early commitment gave NHS chiefs the confidence to put plans in motion, and amongst other measures has led to the extremely impressive and rapid construction, with the invaluable assistance of the Armed Forces, of the NHS Nightingale hospitals in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

The wider Government, from the Prime Minister downwards, has also been right to stress that at all times the national response has been led by the very best scientific and medical advice. As the science has changed, informed by advanced epidemiological modelling, so the Government has changed tack accordingly. The advice now could not be clearer: unless on essential business, everyone should stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

All the indications so far are that people have taken this message on board. The usage of public transport and roads has massively decreased, and our cities and town centres are markedly quieter ? so much so that in Llandudno a herd of goats have overtaken the centre. Whilst it is difficult to draw early conclusions, there are some positive indications that the 'stay at home' message, alongside 'social distancing' for when people absolutely must leave their properties, is contributing to a slowing of the infection rate.

Quite apart from the additional pressure on the NHS, the coronavirus emergency is having a major effect on our economy, as the regular rhythms of life close down. The Chancellor and his team have again struck the right note in making vast sums available to support businesses, including the self-employed, and to protect jobs. No scheme is perfect, but these unprecedented measures should allow the economy to pick itself up again relatively quickly once the crisis ends.

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What has been especially heartening in recent weeks has been the outpouring of volunteering and community spirit unleashed by the shared emergency. All around the country charities and community groups have come together to support the vulnerable, and over 700,000 volunteers have signed up to bolster the NHS, far more than the initial target of 250,000.

More directly, many thousands of recently-retired NHS doctors and nurses ? including some now serving as MPs ? have returned to the colours to play their role in supporting the ill. Even in our jaded times, the scale of public-spirited mobilisation is truly impressive, and will lay down a lasting and positive legacy for the years ahead.

Once we are through the coronavirus ? which may yet be some considerable time ? it may be that we have a general re-evaluation of how our world works. For at least the past two decades the UK has championed globalisation, but this pandemic has shown quite how thin these threads can be stretched by the unexpected. Indeed, relying on factories overseas to supply essential goods, especially medicines, protective equipment and testing materials, does not do much to bolster national resilience in the face of a global crisis.

More broadly, there may have to be a rethinking of our relationship with China. All figures released by the Chinese Government need to be taken with a certain pinch of salt, with some outside the country estimating that the true numbers of infected and dead in China are many times higher than have been admitted.

On top of this, this virus almost certainly jumped into humans via the same wet markets that were identified as the source of the SARS outbreak almost 20 years ago. It is therefore unsettling that China, in common with Russia, now appears to be trying to use this pandemic as a way of increasing its soft power by drawing attention to the medicines and other medical supplies it is shipping to other countries ? especially since in many cases these have been paid for.

Whilst fully supporting the Government in its actions so far, there are still some shortcomings in the response. The NHS needs to get on top of both the supply of personal protective equipment and the testing issue ? some broad sampling of the population needs to be done as quickly as possible so we have an idea of the scale of the outbreak, which will inform how soon life can get back to normal. In addition, large numbers of British nationals abroad need support in getting back to the UK.

It is a truism that the most momentous historical events are not ones that are very pleasant to live through, and this pandemic certainly fits into this category. However, with forbearance and community spirit ? and with a huge effort from the NHS ? we will get through this together.

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