Over the last few days, there have been significant developments in the spread of coronavirus as we have seen more and more confirmed cases across the country. Tragically the number of fatalities from the virus has also risen. This is now clearly an issue which will have a profound impact on the lives of everyone in this country and in our Town. So far there have only been three confirmed cases of coronavirus in Suffolk but this is highly likely to rise substantially over the coming days and weeks.
From the start of the coronavirus outbreak, I have been in frequent contact with Ipswich Hospital to ensure that they have everything they need to cope with an increase in cases.
Today I spoke to the Chief Executive of Ipswich Hospital to get another update on the latest steps being taken. And I’ll soon be meeting with the Chair of the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group to go further into the detail. I am staying fully informed of developments from our healthcare professionals and I’ll keep in close contact with the Government to get all the support our local NHS needs.
Today the Prime Minister outlined new guidance, asking that all those with a cough or high temperature to self-isolate for 7 days if living alone. If one member of a family displays these symptoms, all members of the household should self-isolate for 14 days. This includes refraining from going outside to buy food and supplies if possible. The Prime Minister also set out how it is essential that everyone in the country avoids non-essential travel and non-essential contact with others, particularly with the elderly, pregnant women and those with certain underlying health conditions. This means working from home where possible and avoiding pubs, clubs and other social venues. We should also only use the NHS when absolutely necessary. Of course, things like frequent hand-washing and using tissues to catch germs remain vital.
There is also the possibility that those from vulnerable groups may be asked to self-isolate for significantly longer periods of twelve weeks in the near future. People most at risk must be shielded as much as possible.
I understand that the advice for more social distancing, particularly from our elderly neighbours and loved-ones raises significant concerns about loneliness and our ability to care for them over significant periods of time. I’ll be doing whatever I can personally to support the elderly get through this. I’ll be working with Age UK in Suffolk to set up a telephone system where I and others in the community can help keep our elderly neighbours company by phone. I’ll also be joining other charity and community groups to help with things like dog walking and doing people’s shopping where we can. I know many of you would also like to help so please get in touch with my office if you feel like you can lend a hand. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated by those in the greatest need at this time. My office is at the disposal of efforts to support the community.
I also understand that some of my constituents are stuck overseas following the suspension of travel between the UK and certain other countries. My office is providing continued support to Ipswich residents stuck abroad and will continue to do so for anyone else who is unable to get home. This is a highly stressful situation for them and I’ve written to the Foreign Secretary today asking him to step up Government support for repatriation.
I’m also acutely aware that the new advice will have a major impact on local businesses in Ipswich, including our local pubs, hotels, retailers and leisure companies. I’m clear that the unprecedented healthcare measures set out today must also be accompanied by unprecedented economic measures. It will now be essential that the Government steps in to reimburse these businesses for the time they are left without customers. Many constituents have already written in to me that greater clarity is needed on the £3,000 cash grant for small business in the Budget. This is one of the concerns I’m calling on the Government to urgently address.
Throughout my time as a Member of Parliament, I’ve been clear that our town’s pubs and small businesses are the backbone of our economy and community and they must be supported throughout this outbreak so that they can be part of our recovery. They are absolutely indispensable for our town’s future.
I want you to know that throughout this difficult period, my office will be available to anyone who has concerns and my team will be prioritising coronavirus enquiries. If you need further information or would like us to write to the Government or any third party on your behalf, do not hesitate to get in touch. I have already had a number of people contacting me about what coronavirus means for private renters who may be unable to pay their rent during these exceptional measures. I am looking into the matter urgently.
Finally, I want to say that this is clearly a distressing time for many, particularly the elderly and those with elderly relatives. This is the situation that most of us find ourselves in, and I’m no different. I have elderly relatives and I understand the personal impact and disruption that this virus has on our lives. Throughout all this, we must remain cautious but also level-headed as we do our bit to follow the Government’s advice and do what we can to help those in the greatest need. Most importantly, we must come together as a community to support each other through this difficult time.
I will of course keep you fully updated as the situation develops. And please keep up to date on the latest NHS advice through the following link: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/