In his regular column for the Hereford Times, Hereford and South Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman warns of the great challenges we face in our post-Covid world

SLOWLY, our gorgeous country, our county of Herefordshire, our city, our market towns and rural areas are starting to emerge from lockdown.

Local shops are starting to reopen, and hopefully pubs, cafes and restaurants soon after them. 

No one knows exactly what the future will bring, for we live in a world of radical uncertainty. But here are some thoughts about where we may be headed.

First, there will be no full return to "normality" as we have known it. There may be a safe and effective vaccine in due course, but even that is not a certainty – after all, HIV was first identified in 1984, and there is no vaccine against it even today.

So precautions, separation and zooming will become "normal". 

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Secondly, the massive increase in human interaction in recent decades means that people, ideas and diseases move faster than ever before.

We may be entering a much more volatile period in human history, and that volatility needs to be managed, and insured against. 

Thirdly, I have seen directly from the Treasury what a positive difference central government can make.

More than 20,000 local people have been supported by our furlough scheme, and over 8,000 people through the self-employed scheme. Hundreds of local businesses have benefited from our grants, rates relief and bounce-back loans.

But, fourthly, there is a limit even to what government can do.

We have yet to feel the full effects of the pandemic. Our society functions best with steady economic growth, as periods of recession remind us. But how that growth is achieved really matters: locally, sustainably, inclusively and across a broad base.

So: how do we achieve that growth, and that resilience? It can only come from the bottom up; from greater community, from looking out for each other, from growing our own. We urgently need to think collectively about how we can shape a new local future. 

High streets will change, so how can we speed up change-of-use planning rules to allow shops to be turned into homes?

We face a wave of staycations, so how can we make Herefordshire and the Marches the UK's first Covid-safe tourist destination? 

Can we change our market squares into outdoor areas where people can eat and drink together safely?

Can we make our new university a world-class destination for local young people? 

How can we lift local investment? 

These are the key questions for today, and tomorrow.