The MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes, reflects on one year of the Covid-19 pandemic striking Test Valley.

There is no doubt the last year has been tough on people from and economic and a personal perspective. Being cut off from your loved ones has been horrific, and I know many have struggled with the emotional and mental health toll of forced separation. People have been quick to identify how difficult it has been for young people in particular, but ditto the elderly, who have been forced into near isolation.

But there have been some amazing positives, and I know people will think that odd for me to say. The 700+ volunteers who rallied to the call to assist at the vaccination centre at the Crosfield Hall are just one example. It was incredible to meet some of them and see the very happy queue of pensioners waiting for their jabs earlier in the year. They came on top of the thousands of people who quietly got on with volunteering in their communities, doing shopping, collecting prescriptions, walking dogs, making telephone calls to check on elderly neighbours. Some parishes have developed very successful buddy schemes, which have undoubtedly strengthened communities and helped neighbours get to know each other better.

We’ve also seen changes to road layouts, which have at times been very controversial. The Government did give money to help councils trial new schemes, and in some instances it gave the opportunity to test run schemes previously suggested over many decades. Of course one such scheme has been the part pedestrianisation of The Hundred in Romsey. That has proved to be very controversial for local residents, although enjoyed by many, it simply has not worked from a traffic management perspective.

Interestingly the switch to home working has been popular with many, and I wonder if we will see permanent changes to the way we work with far fewer people commuting out of Test Valley to Winchester, Southampton, Basingstoke and beyond.

That gives opportunities to the local towns of Romsey and Andover, how to encourage people to use local services during the day when they previously might only have had access to them at weekends.