Not surprisingly my office is being inundated with questions in emails and on social media especially following the significant restrictions announced by the Prime Minister last night. The full statement and key points are available in full on my Facebook page @TimLoughtonEWAS and on my website at www.timloughton.com and we are constantly updating those as new information is made available. May I ask everyone to check there first before sending me questions and I will issue regular FAQs for things coming up most often.
This morning I participated in a daily conference call with ministers and many dozens of issues were raised. Some were answered there and then, and others will receive more detailed advice shortly. Here is a summary of some key points at this stage.
- Follow the basic advice announced last night where the default position is stay at home unless your journey is absolutely essential. When you do go out take every precaution to observe social distancing . Where people are not able to work from home they are permitted to travel to work but you need to judge whether you can do that safely without travelling on a crowded bus or being in close contact with several other co-workers. I know this is a grey area, but everyone is asked to deploy common sense and realise that the more people you come into contact with the more likely you are to spread the infection which will result ultimately in more deaths and a prolonged period of restrictions needing to apply.
- The fantastic volunteering schemes that have sprung up can continue but again if you use the criteria above. The Government delivery scheme deploying local authority workers, military and volunteers will kick in later this week and will be run through local hubs. Volunteers will then be able to transfer over to those schemes to be organised most effectively and safely. In the meantime please carry on looking after vulnerable people you have already made contact with but please do not put them at danger of infection. Those households deemed vulnerable will start receiving letters from the NHS today and those households will qualify for free official food parcel deliveries. That will take pressure off supermarkets which are still facing huge demand and queues. For those who are not automatically covered by this scheme there will be a helpline number to request support too. I will advertise as soon as I have it. We hope to keep the Worthing ‘Shopital’ project running with a reduced team of volunteers thanks to Sainsbury’s supplying us and the kind donations from local people and businesses wanting to show their appreciation for NHS staff.
- The biggest group of people not yet covered by the main measures announced by the Chancellor last week are the self-employed. This is a particularly problematic group and the Treasury are working on a scheme which will be announced soon.
- There has been a major delivery to hospitals over the weekend of PPE (personal protective equipment) but there is still a problem with supply to care homes and GPs and others and this is being worked on. The availability of testing kits is being ramped up considerably
- The limit for contactless card transactions has been immediately raised to £45.
- I have received a few contacts on social media about constituents trapped overseas trying to get home. Please email me with full details if you are in this position and I will see if we can help
- Guidance for separated families with shared parenting responsibilities have been confirmed. Movements between parents of children under 18 can continue as normal but again observe social distancing considerations
- If you are planning to go off on holiday in a caravan and motorhome to an even more picturesque part of the country please don’t - and if you have already, come home now. Caravan parks are being advised to close.
- Farmers will be allowed to travel where they have livestock to look after away from their main farm site.
- Further information will be forthcoming about MOTs for cars. Garages can remain open to issue MOTs if they have the staff but the Government is looking at potential schemes to allow a temporary rollover
- It is permissible to collect a student from university again observing social distancing rules. They are better off at home but make sure you have enough food in. I collected my daughter from university at the weekend and our fridge is already aware of that !
- Tending your allotment is a good form of exercise for older people and for mental health too. Again only do this if you can isolate from other diggers. It is to exercise and help produce essential food (although I fear we may not have horticultural shows to exhibit at for a while) not to socialise
- Restaurants serving takeover food can continue to operate and I am happy to advertise any hotels and restaurants who have switched to doing this on my website
West Sussex County Council has introduced a free dispensation notice for all NHS Staff which will be available from the parking shop. The dispensation will allow NHS staff to park in pay and display bays, permit bays, shared use bays and limited waiting bays without charge or limit, this will be valid for 12 weeks. Staff can email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org leaving their contact details and a member of staff will contact the customer back to arrange where to send the dispensation to. In addition the borough council has suspended parking charges in Lyndhurst Road Car Parks for West Sussex Hospital staff providing a note is left in their windscreen.
I will add to this list daily and will aim to take up as many of your queries with the appropriate authorities as possible but please be patient. My staff are all working hard from home and I have now seconded some of my children to help too. If you need a surgery appointment, I will be holding surgeries remotely. If you ring 01273 757182 and leave a message or email me directly on email@example.com and one of us will ring you back.
Above all keep safe and keep calm and we will get through this.