You are receiving this email because you are subscribed to my regular e-newsletter. It is my intention to send out these Coronavirus (COVID-19) bulletins regularly to keep constituents up to date with the latest advice. Please feel free to unsubscribe or indeed share with friends and family. If you have contacted me recently on the virus, please accept this email as a response. I will be responding to urgent enquiries on the virus but due to the volume of correspondence may not be able to respond to correspondence offering ‘advice’ or asking for ‘my thoughts’ as quickly as normal.
Please be aware this email was accurate at the time of writing. The situation is very fluid so please always seek the latest information where possible.
Latest Health Advice
As you will be aware, the Coronavirus pandemic is continuing to intensify across the world. The UK and Scottish Government’s are working closely together to coordinate the response here. As health is devolved the primary source of information you should seek on the virus should always be the Scottish Government.
The current advice is if you are exhibiting any symptoms (high temperature OR fever OR cough OR shortness of breath) you should self-isolate immediately for 7 days.
Phone your GP or NHS 24 (111) if your symptoms:
· are severe or you have shortness of breath
· worsen during home isolation
· have not improved after 7 days
You should also phone your GP or NHS 24 (111) if you develop breathlessness or it worsens, especially if you:
· are 60 years old or over
· have underlying poor health
· have heart or lung problems
· have a weakened immune system, including cancer
· have diabetes
· are pregnant (this is a new vulnerable group that has been added)
If you are in one of the above vulnerable groups, the Government are advising you to strongly consider reducing social contact. It is very likely that over the course of the next few days or weeks those in the above groups will be asked to completely socially isolate. It is worth taking the time to put in place support networks to ensure you and your family can continue to receive necessary foods and medications. Government services will be under huge pressure in the weeks to come and it may not always be possible to rely on them.
For the latest health advise please keep up to date with NHS Inform, here.
If you don’t have symptoms and are looking for general information, phone our free helpline on 0800 028 2816.
In addition to the above – Latest UK Government Advice as at 17:30 on Monday 16 March
“Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel.”
Here are some key points:
· Anyone who lives with someone who has a cough or a temperature should stay at home for 14 days. This is the incubation and recovery period.
· Stop “non-essential contact” with others.
· Avoid “non-essential travel”
· People should start working from home where they possibly can
· Avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues
· Only use the NHS when we really need to in order to take pressure off
· From tomorrow government will no longer be “supporting” mass gatherings using emergency workers so they are unlikely to go ahead but most are being cancelled in any case
Following the Prime Minister’s statement, the UK Health Secretary updated the House of Commons. You can watch here. I submitted constituents questions to my colleague Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth who read them out during his statement.
I raised the fact the Prime Minister has not mandated pubs and restaurants should close, depriving them of custom and insurance money they would have received had the government closed them down.
I have been inundated with parents and constituents demanding the closure of schools alongside demanding keeping them open. I am not qualified to answer this question but the Scottish Government and UK Governments are not to close schools at this stage.
The Chief Scientific Officer said it “may be necessary” to think about school closures in time but only “at the right stage” of the outbreak. It is clear that the virus doesn’t affect children as much as adults but the transmission is unknown at this stage.
Due to Government advice I have decided that my staff from both my constituency and Westminster offices will now be working from home. The office at 31 Minto Street and in Westminster will be closed from Tuesday 16th March until further notice. My staff will continue to work from home and will be contactable via email or telephone.
Telephone: 0131 662 4520 – please remember to leave your details, including phone number.
Where your issue is related to the City of Edinburgh Council directly please contact your local ward councillors in the first instance. I am anticipating a great deal of casework relating to Statutory Sick Pay and Universal Credit and my office may not have the capacity to deal with local Council and Scottish Government issues.
The ongoing crisis will be an incredibly difficult time financially for many households across the country, particularly for those who are in public facing roles and the self-employed. At the budget last week the UK Government announced £12 billion of temporary measures to provide security and stability for people and businesses including an expansion of Statutory Sick Pay. You can read more about the changes to Statutory Sick Pay and the other Coronavirus measures in the budget here.
You can also check whether you are entitled to Sick Pay, here.
I think it is vitally important that at times of national crisis politicians of all parties work together for the good of the country. Part of this means no petty politicking and point scoring. However, I also think the role of the opposition must include proposing serious and workable solutions to the ongoing crisis. With that in mind I do think the Government needs to look seriously at:
· increasing Statutory Sick Pay
· providing mortgage and rent holidays
· cutting the wait for universal credit, although this may be technically difficult
The BBC has also said it will delay changes to the TV licence for the over-75s until August
As households come under increasing financial pressure the Government should be doing all it can to help and I will continue to press the government in that regard. It is clear that further measures will be required in the coming days and months. I know there are particular issues with freelancers and the self-employed.
It is not just individuals but business owners who will be squeezed by the virus. Following money announced in the UK Budget for businesses the following steps will be put in place by the Scottish Government to support businesses during the 2020-21 financial year to reflect the UK budget:
• a 75% rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of less than £69,000 from 1 April 2020
• an £80 million fund to provide grants of at least £3,000 to small businesses in sectors facing the worst economic impact of COVID-19
• 1.6% rates relief for all properties across Scotland, effectively reversing the planned below inflation uplift in the poundage from 1 April 2020
• a fixed rates relief of up to £5,000 for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 from 1 April 2020
The Government has set up a helpline for Scottish businesses and event organisers to provide them with tailored advice on Coronavirus. The helpline, 0300 303 0660, operates from 08.30 till 17.30 Monday to Friday, and online here.
Everyone is understandably worried about getting enough food for them and their family but the recent stockpiling of food is causing real difficulties for others. All major UK supermarkets have published an open letter in which they pledged to keep everyone fed but it requires us to buy no more than me need. Read more here.
Government’s approach and communication
Over the weekend there has been much criticism of the government’s message and communication strategy. Unattributed briefings by government advisers to journalists and articles by the Health Secretary behind journalistic paywalls is not a sensible way to run a public health response to a global pandemic.
With that in mind I am pleased the Government has moved towards a daily press conference and do hope the communications strategy will be professionalised. It is essential the public develop trust with a select few government minister and medical professionals who relay a clear and constituent message. As an example there is NO UK or Scottish Government policy on “herd immunisation” or “forced isolation for the over 70s” as has been widely reported.
Before travelling please make sure you read the up to date Foreign Office guidance. It is likely this advise will change daily as travel becomes more and more restricted.
Overseas visitors to Scotland, regardless of their residency status, are exempt from NHS charges for both the diagnosis and treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19).
At the time of writing we are not sure what services will be running in Edinburgh. I will be writing more of these updates in the days to come and hope to update you with more information on service availability at that point. I have contacted senior City of Edinburgh Council officers to get their planning for communities and vulnerable residents.
If you can, please look in on a vulnerable neighbour.