For the past fortnight all of my work has been within Government in its effort to protect the public and the economy from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In my role as Her Majesty’s Solicitor-General, I am attending most meetings of COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room A) (pictured left, arriving) which are regularly Chaired by the Prime Minister, and attended by the Health Secretary, the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor as well as other senior ministers and officials.
The Government is acting on the most up-to-date scientific and medical evidence, advice and expertise. Meetings are occurring very regularly and as one of the Government’s Law Officers my consent is often needed for certain actions to be taken.
I can say with confidence that all involved are working as hard as they can to secure the best outcome for the British people.
I have also been helping the Department of Health and Social Care with the preparation of an Emergency Bill that will help the Government in its fight against COVID-19. New temporary laws are being introduced that will, if needed, give Secretaries of State the power to take measures necessary to protect the public. This is an historic Bill giving the Government the powers needed to fight the outbreak – this Bill is due to pass through Parliament this week.
The Coronavirus Bill gives the Government the opportunity to use sweeping powers in order to protect the public, but the Bill is strictly time-limited and its powers are only switched on if and when they are needed. I have been working to answer MPs’ questions about the Bill and last week I led an MPs’ Q&A on the Bill answering questions from colleagues.
There is an urgent need to protect vulnerable people and older people and the extraordinary measures being taken are to contain the threat and protect the NHS.
If we can delay the spread of the virus over the coming months, the hope is to reduce the burden on the NHS – stopping large numbers from needing treatment at once and meaning that those most at risk can receive the care they need.
The situation is changing on a daily basis and the financial and other assistance offered by the Government is also adapting accordingly.
The Government has asked that people avoid all non-essential social contact and travel where possible – especially those people falling into an at-risk category.
As you may have seen from the Prime Minister’s address on Monday night you should only leave the home for the following four reasons:
- Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
- One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
- Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
- Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home
Information from Northamptonshire County Council can be found here: https://www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/coronavirus-updates/Pages/default.aspx.
Up-to-date information and guidance from Her Majesty’s Government on the Coronavirus can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
Up-to-date information and guidance from the National Health Service on the Coronavirus can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.
The Government is taking measures to ensure that people and businesses are safe and financially sound. The scale of support to help people already announced is unprecedented and huge and more announcements are made frequently. Some of the measures currently announced include:
- Protecting renters from being evicted for the next three months
- Giving homeowners a 3-month mortgage payment holiday
- Cutting over a £1 billion of business rates for businesses, saving the average business £25,000
- Setting up a £330 billion business loan package
- Extra money for local councils to deal with social care
These support measures are on top of those announced in the annual Budget.
Information on extra measures the Chancellor is taking on top of the budget to support businesses and jobs can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-announces-additional-support-to-protect-businesses.
Up-to-date announcements on Schools and Education can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19.
Up-to-date announcements on Mortgages and Renters can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters.
Protect Yourself and Others:
NHS guidelines recommend that one of the best ways that we as individuals can prevent the spread of the virus is to wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available. You should also cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. Throw tissues in the bin.
Any measures that the Government proposes to fight this Coronavirus and protect the public will have my full support. I will of course continue to monitor the situation extremely closely, and am working with Central Government in London, Local Government in Northamptonshire and my Constituents in Northampton North.
Northampton North residents can email me if they have any questions regarding COVID-19 or the Government’s response to it. I am happy to help however I can.
Wherever possible, please also take the time to contact elderly or high-risk relatives and neighbours. We will get through this, together, and must support each other in the coming weeks.
Volunteers are needed during this difficult time and if you are able to volunteer in any way then please peruse the following website link: https://www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/coronavirus-updates/Pages/volunteer-to-help-those-in-need-coronavirus.aspx.
It may also help to know that the BBC have setup a dedicated new IPlayer experience for children that will show educational programmes for children not at school – you can read more about this here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2020/iplayer-children.
Helplines can be seen in one of the above pictures. Please note all helplines are experiencing a high volume of calls so please only call if necessary.