COVID-19 Coronavirus

This page will be updated with information, guidance and advice from the Government, NHS and other relevant authorities regarding the steps individuals, groups and businesses can take to prevent the spread of disease or if they suspect they may be infected.

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways and is caused by a virus called coronavirus. It is now clear that this will be one of the greatest challenges of our generation, and something that will only be overcome through community perseverance – with every individual taking the necessary steps to prevent the spread and protect our most vulnerable.

All Government guidance and support on COVID-19 can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

If you have specific queries or concerns, please do not hesitate to get in touch at mark.menzies.mp@parliament.uk and I will endeavour to answer them as quickly as possible.

 

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

Every member of society must now play their part in fighting this pandemic by preventing the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus. This will mean making significant changes to our daily lives - only leaving our homes where absolutely necessary and staying at least two meters away from anyone we interact with. But as we do so, it is important to remember that our small sacrifice is not in vain - it will be protecting our elderly and most vulnerable, supporting our care staff to continue their life-saving work and allowing us to overcome this disease as quickly as possible. 

In order to do our bit, we are being told to Stay At Home. You should only leave the house for one of four reasons:

● Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine - this must be done as infrequently as possible.

● One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household (do not meet friends or family from outside your own home to do so).

● Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.

● Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

These four reasons are exceptions - even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.

Those who are elderly or at increased risk of severe illness are being advised to be particularly stringent in following these measures.

More information on the Government's stay at home advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others

 

When you absolutely must leave your home, it is essential that you practice Social Distancing. This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

They are to:

  1. Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
  2. Do not use public transport unless absolutely necessary - this should be left clear for key workers, 
  3. If not classed as a key worker, you should work from home. Your employer should support you to do this. Please refer to employer guidance for more information.
  4. Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, noting that pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together.
  5. Do not meet with friends and family from outside your household. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
  6. Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

More information on social distancing advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people

 

Protecting our most vulnerable (shielding)

The Government has now launched it's shielding advice - this is a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable by minimising all interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.

The Government are now strongly advising people with serious underlying health conditions, which put them at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to rigorously follow shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe.

The NHS in England will be directly contacting people with these conditions to provide further advice.

Full details of the shielding advice and those who may fall into that category can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

If you have any further concerns, or you have not received a letter but feel you should be on the list, please visit the NHS shielded patients list page here: https://digital.nhs.uk/coronavirus/shielded-patient-list

 

Guidance and advice for those who may have been exposed

Due to the ever-changing nature of the situation, and wealth of contradictory advice being shared on all platforms, I urge the public to follow NHS medical advice and Government issued social guidance to tackle COVID-19.

The latest medical advice, as well as the NHS 111 service, can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

The Government's stay-at-home advice for those who suspect they are infected with COVID-19 can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance

 

School closures 

The Government has now announced that schools in England will close to most children from Friday 20th March 2020 until further notice. This means that schools will be open only to those children who absolutely need to attend. 

This decision has been taken not because schools are no longer considered a safe place, but to lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society.

Schools, and all childcare providers, are therefore being asked to continue to provide care only for a limited number of children - children who are vulnerable, and children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.

Whilst this is the case, it is also important that children are not left with elderly relatives during this time - if you have no alternative care option please contact your child's school to discuss further. 

More information and guidance to schools and parents on this announcement can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision 

 

Information and support for individuals

It is understandable that people are concerned about the financial impact this situation may have. It is the Government’s belief that nobody should be financially worse off as a result of following advice to ensure the collective health of our community. As such, the Chancellor and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions have announced a number of measures to expand the eligibility criteria for new claimants and relax assessments for those already claiming.

These measures are outlined below.

 

For those already claiming support

  • If you are unable to attend an assessment your benefits will continue to be paid whilst the appointment is rearranged.
  • People who need to claim ESA or Universal Credit because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a fit note.
  • Claimants who notify the Department for Work and Pension that they are staying at home or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 will not be sanctioned and conditionality requirements will be reviewed to ensure they are reasonable (claimants must ensure they notify the DWP in good time to ensure these steps can be taken).
  • Claimants who are staying at home as a result of coronavirus will have their mandatory work search and work availability requirements removed to account for a period of sickness.

 

For people who need to make a new claim for financial support

It is to be expected that the many people who are required to stay at home or are infected by coronavirus may need financial support, and quickly.

It has been announced that:

  • Those affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance up front without physically attending a jobcentre.
  • The 7 waiting days for ESA for new claimants will not apply if they are suffering from coronavirus or are required to stay at home – so it will be payable from day one.

 

Guidance and support for employees

In order to back businesses and employees in staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Government have announced a range of support measures, as well as changing the application process for existing benefits. 

This includes:

  • People who cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of their illness – The Government will ensure this measure applies retrospectively from 13 March 2020.
  • Statutory Sick Pay will be payable to people who are staying at home on government advice, not just those who are infected, from 13 March 2020 – employers are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask for.
  • If employees need to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus, they will be able to get it from the NHS 111 Online instead of having to get a fit note from their doctor.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furloughed workers)

 The Government has launched the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as a way to support businesses in retaining employees through this difficult time. Meaning that people remain secure in their employment and businesses are able to quickly return to operations following this period of lockdown.

The scheme will mean that, if you are unable to undertake your usual duties at work, your employer can declare you as a furloughed worker and the Government will cover 80% of your monthly salary, up to £2,500, at no cost to the employer. During this period, you will not able to undertake work for the business. There is no obligation from the employer to top this up, although they can do so if they wish.

The cut off date that has been set for this scheme is the 28th of February - this is to prevent fraud through businesses hiring associates to claim the furloughed pay from Government. This means that if you were employed or began a new job after the 28th February, that business/employer will not be able to claim furloughed pay on your behalf. If you do fall into that category, please read the below.

 

Advice for those who left employment since February 28th. 

I am pleased to see that, following feedback from the public, the Chancellor has confirmed that those who have left jobs since February 28th, whether that be due to redundancy or otherwise, can be furloughed. However, this must be claimed through the business you were employed by on the 28th February, meaning you may have to speak with your old employer to request that you be re-added to the payroll. That business will be under no obligation to re-add you to their payroll, however I am asking that employers do the right thing to assist the Government in supporting those in need.

 

Full information on financial support available for individuals can be found here:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-guidance-for-employees

 

Support for Self-Employed

The Chancellor has now announced a package of measures to support those who are self employed - many of whom will not be able to continue operating during this period. 

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. The scheme will be open for an initial three months with people able to make their first claim by the beginning of June.44

For full information on the scheme, including eligibility criteria and how to claim, please visit: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/self-employment-income-support-scheme/

 

Information and support for Businesses

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Government have had to instruct some businesses to close their doors for a short time. This excludes essential businesses and key workers. 

If you are unsure as to whether your business should cease operations, please read the full guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance

The Chancellor has announced a range of measures to support businesses and the self-employed through this period. 

Information on the support available for businesses and the self employed can be found here: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/ 

These measure include: 

  • For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of Statutory Sick Pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full.
  • The Government is introducing a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.
  • A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable all businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5 million, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments. After feedback from businesses, the Chancellor has worked with banks to make this more easily accessible and banned personal guarantees for loans under £25,000. 
  • A £10,000 cash grant will be available to our smallest businesses, delivered by local authorities. Small businesses that pay little or no business rates and are eligible for small business rate relief (SBBR) or rural rate relief and should be contacted by their local council. If you have not received a letter but believe you should have done, please contact the responsible local authority, for the vast majority businesses in Fylde, this will be Fylde Borough Council. More information on the business support services available from FBC can be found here:https://new.fylde.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/
  • A £25,000 grant will also be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.
  • Launch of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - giving UK employers support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.
  • All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. For Time to Pay support if you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.  More information on HMRC support for those affected by COVID-19 can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19

Full guidance for employees, employers and businesses, including employee rights and the correct steps to take to prevent the spread of disease, can be found here:   https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

Specific guidance has also been published for businesses who trade internationally. This can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-uk-businesses/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-uk-businesses-trading-internationally

In addition to the measures announced by the Government, the decisions taken by the Bank of England on 11 March 2020 mean that banks are in a better position to provide additional credit to smaller businesses. Details of these measures can be found here: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/news/2020/march/boe-measures-to-respond-to-the-economic-shock-from-covid-19

 

Businesses can get advice from the government’s Business Support Helpline by contacting them using the below details;

Business Support Helpline (England)
Telephone: 0300 456 3565
enquiries@businesssupporthelpline.org
Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm

More information on the advisory services available to businesses can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline

 

Full details of support announced by the Chancellor can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19

 

Foreign Office Guidance

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising British people against all non-essential travel worldwide until at least 15 April due to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. All countries may restrict travel without notice. 

The FCO is also working tirelessly to support those already abroad in getting home, as part of this, the Foreign Secretary has announced a new partnership with the airline industry to allow passengers to transfer tickets between airlines to enable their travel or support special charter flights where this is not available. The timeline for resolving these issues and people returning to the UK will differ from country to country and individuals are advised to contact the relevant British Embassy for assistance. Country specific travel advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice 

This means that; where commercial routes remain feasible airlines, including Virgin, Easyjet, Jet2 and Titan Airways, will be responsible for getting their passengers with pre-booked tickets home. Where commercial routes do not exist, the Government will provide up to £75 million to enable special charter flights to priority countries to bring back UK residents.

For more information on FCO guidance and support for Britons travelling abroad, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus

 

Local Support Services 

Local authorities will be key in the fight against COVID-19 and supporting our most vulnerable through this period. Councils will also be responsible for delivering some of the support already announced by the Government. 

For information on the services offered by Lancashire County Council, including delivery of social care, education, care homes and public transport, please visit: https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/health-and-social-care/your-health-and-wellbeing/coronavirus/

For information on the services and support offered by Fylde Borough Council, including deferral of council tax and localised business support, please visit: https://new.fylde.gov.uk/

Specific business support from Fylde Borough Council can be found here: https://new.fylde.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/

Fylde Borough Council will also be coordinating a Community Hub. This will support the isolated and lonely residents of the Borough who do not have friends, family or neighbours to assist during the period of isolation required as a result of the Coronavirus. For more info on the help offered by FBC, or to get involved and help in the fight against COVID-19, please visit: https://new.fylde.gov.uk/communitysupport/.

 

Other information

The Government’s overall action plan to tackle COVID-19 Coronavirus can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan

Information on the Bill being put forward by Government to support these measure can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-bill-what-it-will-do/what-the-coronavirus-bill-will-do

As we face this crisis, I know many will hold concern for relatives in care or suffering with dementia - those of you with these concerns may wish to view the Alzheimer's Society COVID-19 information page here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/coronavirus-covid-19

For those with pets or animals to care for, and who may be concerned about exercising or entertaining their pets whilst in self isolation, detailed guidance has been issued by the RSPCA. This can be found here: https://www.rspca.org.uk/coronavirus 

Many people may have had to cancel travel arrangements or postpone events as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, with many now left at a financial loss or having to claim through insurance companies. Which? consumer guide have created a dedicated Coronavirus consumer rights hub with tips and advice covering a wide range of issues, this can be found here: https://www.which.co.uk/news/coronavirus/