As the Prime Minister has said, the coronavirus pandemic is the worst public health crisis for a generation. We will get through it by working through the government’s action plan to contain, delay, research and mitigate the virus. The plan has two overriding aims: to protect the NHS by building it up and flattening the curve, and to protect life by safeguarding those who are most vulnerable. We will do the right thing at the right time, based on the best scientific advice.
The government has taken a range of measures. First, the government has issued guidance on social distancing (for everyone in the UK), and on staying at home (for households with possible coronavirus infection). There is particular guidance on social distancing for older people and vulnerable adults, which I encourage residents to read.
Second, the government is supporting employees, businesses and public services. The recent Budget included a £12 billion package of targeted measures to support public services, individuals and businesses through the economic disruption caused by coronavirus. This included extra resources for the NHS and public services, changes to Statutory Sick Pay and an increase in the Business Rates retail discount for one year.
This week, the Chancellor announced a further package of government-backed loans and guarantees to support business. An initial £330 billion of guarantees will be made available, so any businesses which need access to cash to pay their rent, the salaries of their employees, pay suppliers or purchase stock, will be able to access a government-backed loan. Tax cuts and grants worth more than £20 billion are also being provided to support businesses.
Third, as Foreign Secretary I took the decision on 17 March to advise British nationals against non-essential travel globally, for an initial period of 30 days, and subject to ongoing review. You can find the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice and sign up for email alerts on the FCO website here.
Fourth, after schools shut on Friday afternoon (20 March), they will remain closed until further notice, expect for children of key workers (for example NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers) and vulnerable children. This will help to slow the spread of the virus. A full list of these key workers is available online here.
It is clear that these actions will change life for everyone for several months. I understand that this may be concerning and disruptive, but these measures are necessary to help us get through this in a way that saves lives, protects the public and safeguards the economy.
Strong local community spirit will be important over the next few months, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable groups. I would encourage residents to do what they can to help those groups, within the boundaries of the new advice.
Please also contact me at email@example.com if there is any support that I can provide in your neighbourhood. My work as your local MP continues through this period, and I am on hand to help and advise with any issues you may have.