THIS week, Buckingham MP Greg Smith writes exclusively to Bucks Free Press readers:

We are now firmly on the road back to ‘normal’.

The infection rate of Covid-19, known as “R” is down. The clinically extremely vulnerable who have been shielding, literally not leaving their houses for over two months, can go outside again once a day.

Our economy is opening up with outdoor markets and car showrooms re-opening this week and hopefully other non-essential retail in a fortnight.

We’re able to see more of our friends and family, even in private gardens, so long as social distancing is maintained and gatherings are no more than six.

The return of ‘behind closed doors’ live sport will be hugely exciting and welcome for many. After all the sacrifices, heartbreak and pain so many have gone through due to Covid-19, things are starting to get better.

But that does not mean we are out of the woods yet. Many, such as those who work in leisure and hospitality, are still unable to return to work.

And it is absolutely right that the Chancellor has extended the life-line support schemes to pay employees wages and the vast majority of the self-employed.

The Self Employment Support Scheme will be extended for three months and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will now run until the end of October – providing eight months of support in total.

This remains one of the most comprehensive and generous packages of support anywhere in the world. Reflecting the fact many people are now able to return to work, the government are beginning to slowly taper the level of support from 1st August, so employers can begin to contribute to these costs.

But also adding more flexibility, making it easier for furloughed workers to return part time where necessary. Securing people’s incomes has been so important throughout this crisis and I am delighted the government continues to give these schemes such priority.