NOW the peak of Covid-19 has passed, and its reproduction rate has been coming down, we are in a new phase of gradually reopening parts of the economy and society more generally.

Remaining cautious will be important in controlling a virus for which we do not yet have a cure.

Data gives a clear picture of what is happening nationally, but also regionally, and more localised data will become a critical part of managing the disease going forward.

Access to local, mobile and home testing, and use of the track and trace system, facilitates a focused approach.

Across the country there are Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) that bring together key local agencies to develop and manage the impact of an emergency.

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight LRF represents local NHS hospital trusts, primary care services, local Public Health England services, Hampshire Constabulary, local authorities, fire and rescue, and other local services. They also liaise and co-ordinate with the voluntary sector, especially East Hampshire-based Community First Hampshire.

The LRF monitors and tracks key data across the area, including the impact on local health services, the provision of personal protection equipment, the call on police, and other matters.

Hampshire MPs have regular virtual meetings with the LRF and health services.

As we are all so aware, there have been many personal tragedies here, families losing loved ones, and there have been great strains on those working for us all on the front-line.

It is the case, though, that collaborative working here has been effective.

There has been capacity at all times in our hospitals, with contingencies available if needed, and while protection equipment has run low at times, deliveries have continued, complemented by ‘mutual aid’ between local health services, to secure supply for front-line staff.

Hampshire Covid-19 Helpline has successfully identified those in need of government food supplies, and linked others with community groups for help and support.

The voluntary sector response has been immense – indeed, much greater than expected. Clear about the primacy of engagement and encouragement, Hampshire Constabulary has issued only a small number of fines.

And with the ‘R,’ or reproduction, rate in the south east below the national average, there is news that Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust is leading the trial of a rapid coronavirus test, being rolled out to a number of A&E departments, GP testing hubs and care homes across the county.

This is a nationally-leading innovation from here in Hampshire. Up to 4,000 people of all ages and backgrounds will participate in the pilot that will run for up to six weeks.

Preparations continue for the very cautious, gradual return of more children to school from next week.

I know local schools have put a huge amount of thought and preparatory work into this, and there is very extensive guidance from the department for education on maintaining safety.