The Covid-19 emergency is one of the most severe health threats since the Spanish flu epidemic of a hundred years ago.
There is no escaping the reality that the measures being brought in to tackle the virus will cause severe disruption across our country, and this could last for several months. But the best scientific advice is that this will help us slow the disease and save lives.
We need to do all we can to help the elderly and more vulnerable because of the danger this virus poses for them.
At all stages, the Government is being guided by the science. And we have some of the best scientists in the world in this country providing that advice. We also have one of the best healthcare systems in the world with staff who are hugely professional and dedicated. I want to express my thanks to all NHS workers as they prepare to cope with the large increase in Coronavirus cases which is expected in the coming days.
Parliament remains in session and I am attending every day. My team and I are continuing to work to respond to constituents’ concerns, both on Covid-19 and the other issues routinely raised with MPs. We have, however, had to adopt some changes to working practices to reflect the latest public health guidance.
If you need my help you will need to email me on email@example.com, ring me on 020 8449 7345, or write to me at Theresa Villiers MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. Face-to-face surgery meetings with me are still possible where they are absolutely necessary, but I am trying to keep these to a minimum to reduce risk and to comply with the ‘social distancing’ advice which has been issued.
My regular drop-in surgeries which normally take place on the first Saturday of each month are therefore cancelled in April and May. Surgery meetings will only take place with a pre-booked appointment. No one calling at my constituency office will be admitted without a pre-booked appointment.
This is a fast-moving situation and I urge everyone to regularly monitor the general advice from the Government about Coronavirus and what action we all should be taking. A link to the Covid-19 pages of the www.gov.uk website can be found here which set out the latest information. Advice from the NHS is available here. Information on local matters related to Covid-19 can be found here on the Barnet Council website. For non-medical queries relating to Covid-19, Barnet Council can be emailed on firstname.lastname@example.org.
In brief, the vitally important message continues to be that we all need to wash our hands thoroughly and regularly, for at least 20 seconds.
If you or any of your household develops a new persistent cough (often with shortness of breath) or a high temperature, the whole household should stay at home for 14 days. If possible, you should try to avoid leaving the house even to buy food. The only exception is exercise and when you do this, you should keep your distance from other people.
For those of us without symptoms, it is advised that social contact and travel should be avoided unless necessary and you should work at home where possible. Those over 70, those with certain pre-existing health conditions, and pregnant women have been advised to isolate themselves completely, starting this weekend. This advice is likely to stay in place for some weeks to come.
If you have symptoms and they become unbearable, or persist for more than seven days, you can access medical support by dialling NHS 111 or NHS 111 Online.
There is understandable anxiety about loss of income in the event of having to self-isolate and how families and businesses will pay their bills. The Government’s priority is to ensure people are not penalised for doing the right thing. A £350 billion package to help businesses and keep workers in jobs was announced yesterday to supplement the very substantial support set out in the Budget. These measures are unprecedented in our peacetime history and the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have said that they will do “whatever it takes” to get the economy through this crisis.
If you are self-employed, including in the gig-economy, welfare payments from the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC) are now available from day one of isolation. More details for employees and employers can be found here.
The Government’s response continues to evolve as more is known and further steps to protect the population are taken. We all now need do our bit to reduce the harmful effects of this virus and keep ourselves and others safe.
Although the situation feels very grim, we will get through this. The health threat we are now facing is as bad as any for a hundred years. But this country will get through this, just as we have got through many difficult times in our history, so long as we look out for each other and come together in a national effort.