Dear Friends and Residents
The Covid-19 virus is perhaps the most disruptive and dangerous pandemic we have faced in generations. As with the rest of the country, and indeed the world, all of us in Maidstone and the Weald will face upheavals in the coming months as we tackle, individually and collectively, the consequences of this widespread infection.
Our inherent sense of community, generosity and stoicism will underly our support to the most vulnerable in our midst and will be fundamental in this challenge, and we will prevail.
This is a fast-moving situation and guidance will change as the infection levels increase, and then subside. The core of the Government’s plan is to manage the infection rate to allow our NHS to cope over time and I set out below the current health advice by way of an update.
I have also set out below links to travel advice, further advice for those who might be in a position to help more vulnerable people, and the most recent announcements regarding help for businesses.
I am also in touch with a number of our local charities, particularly those who support older or more vulnerable people, to offer my assistance in any way that I can and to ask for their advice on how volunteers can best help those who need it. I know there are people across our community who want to help if they can and I will provide updates on the opportunities available as they arise. Also see the section below ‘Supporting our most vulnerable citizens’
If you are a constituent and think I may be able to help you or your family in any way at all, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my team at 020 7219 7107 or 01622 669623.
The mains symptoms of Coronavirus are:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
If you have one or both of these symptoms, then you should stay at home for 7 days.
If you live with other people, then they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.
If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days. If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.
You should use the NHS 111 online service (https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19/) if:
- you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
- your condition gets worse
- your symptoms do not get better after 7 days
You can read the full health advice here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.
The Government is asking us all to take steps to reduce the social interaction between people. The main measures are:
- Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible.
- Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this.
- Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars and clubs.
- Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
- Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.
Everyone should be trying to follow these measures as much as is pragmatic under their personal circumstances.
The Government strongly advises you to follow the above measures as much as you can and to significantly limit close face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible, particularly if you:
- are over 70
- have an underlying health condition
- are pregnant
This advice is likely to be in place for some weeks. You can view the latest guidance in full here: https://bit.ly/2WnkQ13.
It is so important that we look out for the most vulnerable in our community at this worrying time, particularly those who are in self-isolation and may find it difficult to arrange for deliveries of food and other essentials. If you are able and willing, please do try and make contact with neighbours who you feel may be vulnerable, either by phone or perhaps with a note through the letterbox including your contact details and an offer to help.
If you, or someone you know, is unable to arrange delivery of essentials for their health and well-being then please do not hesitate to contact me and I will seek to arrange assistance.
I know that the wonderful Wendy Pfeiffer from the West Kent Befriending Service is setting up a service where volunteers call older or more vulnerable people who are likely to be self-isolating on an at least weekly basis. If you feel you can volunteer some time to help provide this service then please get in touch with Wendy directly on email@example.com
Support for Businesses
Earlier this week, the Chancellor set out a substantial range of measures the Government is introducing to support businesses and individuals in combatting the economic impact of coronavirus. These measures will be available by the beginning of next week at the latest and include:
- Unlimited loans and guarantees to support firms and help them manage cashflows through this period. The Chancellor will make available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of UK GDP.
- Increasing the amount businesses can borrow through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £1.2 million to £5 million and ensuring businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as Government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments.
- Giving all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a 100% business rates holiday for the next 12 months.
- Increasing grants to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief from £3,000 to £10,000.
- Providing further £25,000 grants to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000.
You can read the full set of announcements made yesterday here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/chancellor-of-the-exchequer-rishi-sunak-on-covid19-response.
The Chancellor was clear that he will do whatever it takes to support our businesses and help individuals to manage the inevitable economic consequences of the pandemic and there will therefore be further announcements in the coming days. Please do follow https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-treasury to stay up to date with the latest economic advice.
If any business owners and leaders in Maidstone and The Weald need support with accessing the measures being brought forward by the Government, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.
Help with Personal Finances
The Government is currently urgently working up proposals to provide people with extra support with their personal finances should they come under strain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. These measures so far include:
- Mortgage lenders agreeing that they will support customers that are experiencing difficulties with their finances as a result of Covid-19, including through payment holidays of up to 3 months.
- The Government introducing new legislation to protect renters which includes a complete ban on evictions for at least a three-month period.
The Government will be announcing further measures in the coming days and I will provide a further update on my website when more details are available.
All schools across the country including in Maidstone and The Weald will close from tomorrow for the vast majority of pupils until further notice. In order to allow health and critical workers to continue working, their children, and those who are vulnerable, will continue to attend school. You can read more about this announcement here: https://bit.ly/395YQKS.
I know how worrying and disruptive this is for teachers, parents and students alike, but it is now sadly necessary in order to reduce the spread of the virus. The Government will be publishing further detail on how these closures will work in practice (including further information on the provision of qualifications and on the definition of critical workers) during today and tomorrow. If you do have any specific concerns about this significant step however then please do not hesitate to get in touch.
The UK Government now advises against all but essential overseas travel for UK citizens. This measure has been introduced for an initial 30-day period and will be kept under constant review. You can view the latest Foreign Office travel advice here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus. This will certainly have adverse consequences for travel insurance cover, please be mindful of this if you still decide to travel.
I repeat, if anyone needs assistance with interpreting Government advice or accessing the support available during these enormously challenging times then please do not hesitate to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My team and I will do everything we possibly can to help.
Very best wishes
Helen Grant MP