COVID-19 UPDATE – Thurs 19 March 2020

March 19, 2020 4:30 PM

Below is an update on COVID-19, including latest guidance, how you can help locally, financial support announced so far, and information on getting UK nationals abroad back home safely.

The Liberal Democrat parliamentary team is working hard for their own residents and residents across the country, including raising questions with government ministers over issues that have not yet been answered. I am grateful to them, and the Lib Dem team on Guildford Borough Council, for the work they are doing which has enabled me to put the following update together.

If you have questions that I can assist with or pass on to my Lib Dem MP colleagues please get in touch by emailing me via zoe@guildfordlibdems.org.uk.

Take care and please share this information to help others who may need it.

Zöe Franklin
Parliamentary Spokesperson for Guildford, Cranleigh and our Village

Latest Guidance

  1. WASH YOUR HANDS more often than usual for at least 20 seconds! And please use a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  2. Vulnerable groups. Those over 70, pregnant women and those of all ages who have pre-existing health conditions - broadly defined as those who are normally asked to have the seasonal flu jab - should now avoid all non-essential social contact. The only exception is to leave the house for exercise and even then, social contact should be avoided.
  3. "Over 70s". Those who are over 70 need to reduce social contact even if they are otherwise healthy. But you CAN leave your house, to exercise, walk the dog, go to the shops - as long as you continue to practice social distancing.
  4. Isolation times: 7 or 14 days? If you have a new persistent cough or high temperature and you live ON YOUR OWN, you should self-isolate for SEVEN DAYS. If you live with others, and one person shows symptoms, you should ALL self-isolate for FOURTEEN DAYS.
  5. Testing. There is only a test for those with symptoms when they are ill enough to go to hospital - there is currently no test for those who have had it, though it is currently being developed. Government is working on ramping up testing capacity and I have been pressing hard for NHS and social care workers to be on the priority list, in order that they can safely go to work if they are well and do not have the virus.
  6. Stop ALL non-essential contact and non-essential travel.
  7. Avoid pubs, shops, cinemas and restaurants. But DO check if they have a delivery service: many pubs and restaurants are now offering this as a new service at this difficult time. At some point in the coming days and/or weeks, these places may be instructed to shut by the government.
  8. Work from home where you can.
  9. NHS. Only use it if you really need it. Please check the NHS website first for advice. If you are still concerned, call 111. If your health deteriorates quickly, please contact emergency services in the normal way.
  10. Stockpiling. Please shop responsibly and do not buy more than you need. There is no need for residents to stockpile - it is causing shortages for the elderly and the vulnerable, and those relying on food banks. Supermarkets are urging healthy people to CANCEL their delivery slots if possible, in order to free them up for those who need them most.
  11. Schools. From the end of school on Friday all schools, nurseries, colleges and universities will close until further notice to all children except those of key workers and those who are vulnerable (a specific list has yet to be published).

Volunteering in our community

If you are healthy and at low risk, please get in touch with Voluntary Action South West Surrey who is coordinating volunteers and groups across Guildford and Waverley in conjunction with Guildford Borough Council and University of Surrey Students Union to ensure vulnerable people who have to self-isolate get the help they need. Their involvement also helps to protect these people from 'volunteers' who may not be all they seem. There are concerns about criminals trying to infiltrate volunteer groups so please direct people to Voluntary Action.

Financial support measures

The Government have announced various measures. They are:

  • Smaller business (with a rateable value of under £51K) will be eligible for a cash grant of £25,000
  • All shops and pubs (irrespective of their rateable value) will now receive a 12-month "business rates holiday"
  • A £10k grant will be made available for around 700,000 businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief (instead of £3k grants announced at Budget 2020).
  • Mortgage lenders will be required to offer three months payment holidays for those who are struggling.
  • A statutory sick pay relief package created for small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Small business grant funding of £3,000 for all business in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) and Rural Rates Relief.
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance.

Ongoing Concerns

Further support for employees and the self-employed is being looked at by the government. Lib Dem colleagues and I are particularly concerned about freelancers in many sectors who have lost work overnight with no current prospect of future income. Munira Wilson MP (Twickenham) will be raising with the Treasury.

Liberal Democrat MPs continue to ask detailed questions to make sure everyone gets the help they need as soon as possible. As a priority, they are calling on the government to:

  1. Guarantee that anyone who is laid off receives at least 20 days of full pay, starting now.
  2. Provide full council tax relief for bands A to E for at least 6 months, with councils fully compensated for this loss of income.
  3. Turn day-one Universal Credit loans into grants immediately. (4) Ensure no renter is evicted in the coming months as a result of this crisis.