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.
Medical 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/stay-at-home-guidance-for-people-with-confirmed-or-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection
On this page you will find two posters to print at home, one for neighbours who want to offer help, the other for constituents in self isolation, to advise others and to provide any specific instructions to follow.
Social distancing is crucial
To delay the spread of coronavirus, the government has instructed some businesses and venues including all pubs, bars and restaurants to close.
This follows expert advice that more needs to be done in order to tackle the spread of infection - following the call to action to isolate or socially distance.
The closures will help limit the spread of coronavirus by helping to stop non-essential contact and unnecessary travel, in line with the public guidance announced earlier this week.
The measures will be reviewed on a monthly basis, and are being implemented across the whole of the UK in agreement with the devolved administrations. If needed, the government will enforce these measures by law.
This will not affect supermarkets or retailers that supply fuel, medicines and other vital goods, which will continue to be open as normal for the public.
The following businesses and venues have been asked to close:
- Food and drink venues for consumption on-site, such as restaurants and cafes.
- Drinking establishments, including pubs, bars, nightclubs.
- Entertainment venues, including cinemas, theatres, concert halls, and bingo halls.
- Museums and galleries.
- Spas and massage parlours.
- Casinos and betting shops.
- All indoor leisure and sports facilities, including gyms.
- Businesses who do not follow COVID-19 restrictions will be issued with prohibition notices
- Businesses who fail to comply will receive fines and could also face the loss of their alcohol license
- There will be no upper limit to the fines of businesses who continue to ignore restrictions
Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers, with police support if appropriate, will work together to issue prohibition notices challenging unsafe behaviours where businesses do not follow these restrictions.
Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers will monitor compliance, and businesses who fail to comply can also receive fines. Continued non-compliance could then lead to the loss of alcohol licenses.
Under the Business Closure regulations introduced on March 21, officers will have powers to prosecute for breach of regulations.
This measure will not impact the relaxation of planning rules announced earlier this week which will allow pubs and restaurants to operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak, which will help to support people who are staying at home through this period.
The government has also urged the public to take further steps to protect themselves and the wider population from the coronavirus, including:
- Everyone to stay at home unless they need to get essential supplies such as food and medicines.
- All those able to work from home to do so, unless their work is essential.
- Only traveling if absolutely necessary - while public transport won’t stop, this should only be used for essential travel - for example by key workers to travel to and from work.
The decision to introduce further measures has been taken based on the latest advice from the world-leading health and scientific experts advising the government.
When infection rates come down, the government will remove measures as soon as it is safe to do so, guided by scientific advice.
The government is working urgently to further improve testing and monitoring, which will also help in relaxing the measures as soon as possible.
Financial 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.
Employees and self-employed people
To make sure people in work can take the necessary time off to stay at home if they are suffering from coronavirus or to prevent its spread, changes have been made to Statutory Sick Pay and how Universal Credit supports self-employed claimants.
- 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 – this is currently under development and will be made available soon.
- Self-employed claimants on Universal Credit who are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus will not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time while affected.
Full information on financial support available for individuals can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-support-for-employees-benefit-claimants-and-businesses
Information and support for Businesses
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/news/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-employees-employers-and-businesses
In the recent Budget, the Chancellor announced a range of measures to support businesses and the self-employed through this period. This can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19
Support available for businesses includes:
- 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 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.
- 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 will be contacted by their local authority - they do not need to apply.
- 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.
- 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
In addition, the decisions announced 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
In terms of Rate Relief, Councils continue to develop a system for processing claims. Progress will be announced on the Business Rates website at https://www.blackpool.gov.uk/Business/Business-rates/Business-rates.aspx or https://www.wyre.gov.uk/info/200372/business_rates.
Businesses can get advice from the government’s Business Support Helpline by contacting them using the below details;
More information on the advisory services available to businesses can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline
The Government has ordered that from Friday March 20 all schools should close. However, provision will be made for the children of those individuals designated as key workers. If your work is critical to the COVID-19 response, or you work in one of the critical sectors listed below, and you cannot keep your child safe at home then your children will be prioritised for education provision:
Health and social care
This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.
Education and childcare
This includes nursery and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.
Key public services
This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.
Local and national government
This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response or delivering essential public services such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms length bodies.
Food and other necessary goods
This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).
Public safety and national security
This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.
This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.
Utilities, communication and financial services
This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.
If workers think they fall within the critical categories above they should confirm with their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.
Exams and qualifications
The exam regulator, Ofqual, and exam boards will work with teachers to provide grades to students whose exams have been cancelled this summer, following our actions to slow the spread of coronavirus.
University representatives have confirmed that they expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education.
This year’s summer exam series, including A levels, GCSEs and other qualifications, and all primary assessments, have been cancelled as we fight to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The Government’s priority is now to ensure affected students can move on as planned to the next stage of their lives, including going into employment, starting university, college or sixth form courses, or an apprenticeship in the autumn.
This means ensuring GCSE, A and AS level students are awarded a grade which fairly reflects the work that they have put in. There will also be an option to sit an exam early in the next academic year for students who wish to. Ofqual will develop and set out a process that will provide a calculated grade to each student which reflects their performance as fairly as possible, and will work with the exam boards to ensure this is consistently applied for all students. The exam boards will be asking teachers, who know their students well, to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead.
To produce this, teachers will take into account a range of evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment – clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly will be provided to schools and colleges. The exam boards will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in.
Ofqual and exam boards will be discussing with teachers’ representatives before finalising an approach, to ensure that it is as fair as possible. More information will be provided as soon as possible.
The aim is to provide these calculated grades to students before the end of July. In terms of a permanent record, the grades will be indistinguishable from those provided in other years. We will also aim to ensure that the distribution of grades follows a similar pattern to that in other years, so that this year’s students do not face a systematic disadvantage as a consequence of these extraordinary circumstances.
The Government’s overall action plan to tackle COVID-19 Coronavirus can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan
Travel Advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus
Information for landlords and private tenants: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters
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