Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Update - 20th March 2020

The coming months will an incredibly challenging time for all of our communities. The Covid-19 pandemic poses health risks to people across Dulwich and West Norwood, and staggering problems for our economy. I have been contacted by many residents who are already experiencing difficulties and I wanted to set out the actions I am taking and the most up to date information I have on all of the issues that the pandemic presents.

It is incredibly important to continue to closely follow the advice issued by Public Health England. This is a very fast-moving situation and the advice is subject to constant review. I have published a full FAQ on my website which can be viewed here. I will be updating this regularly with the most recent information.

The first concern for everyone right now is the health of our friends and family. Our NHS staff work hard all year round but this will undoubtedly be one of the most difficult periods our NHS has faced. I have been working closely with our local healthcare providers and local authorities to understand how they are gearing up and to support them as much as possible. Concerns have been raised across the country about a shortage of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and aprons for frontline staff, as well the need for a large increase in the number of ventilators and critical care beds. I have raised the need for King’s College Hospital to be given additional funding and resources as a matter of urgency to meet the needs of our local community.  

The lockdowns of cities across the world and the reduction in flights have left many of my constituents stranded overseas. The Foreign Office is currently advising any constituent unable to return home to contact their airline and insurance provider to discuss support. I am concerned about the level of support that my constituents are receiving from the Foreign Office in some locations, and I am raising this in Parliament.  

Any constituent who is stranded should contact me by email at helen.hayes.mp@parliament.uk as soon as possible with full contact details and information on your location, airline and any tour operator, so that I can raise your case with the Foreign Office and relevant Embassy or Consulate on your behalf.

I have been calling on the Government to take urgent action to support constituents whose livelihoods are threatened by the pandemic. Last week, I co-ordinated a cross party letter demanding the Government guarantee full pay for social care workers who face losing wages if they self-isolate. Social care workers are at the frontline of responding to Covid-19 and they should not be forced to make an impossible choice between protecting their patients and feeding their families. You can read more here. It is also vital that the government introduces widespread income protection measures for everyone whose employment is affected by Covid-19, including freelancers and sole traders and anyone on a zero hours contract. You can read more here.

I welcome the announcement of financial support for businesses. However, I am concerned that this continues to leave the self-employed and contractors reliant on universal credit with a five week wait, and that businesses may end up taking on debt which they could struggle to repay. This affects people across many industries including services, the arts and construction. I have signed an Early Day Motion and letter to call on the Government to introduce a temporary universal basic income for freelancers and the self-employed.

The Government took far too long to provide certainty to introduce protections for tenants in the private rented sector. I raised this with the Chancellor and I am glad that that our local councils and housing associations proactively announced that no one will be evicted from social housing during the pandemic. I welcome the Government’s announcement of emergency legislation to ban evictions if tenants cannot pay rents due to coronavirus. However, it is important that evictions are not simply deferred until after the pandemic has subsided. I will continue to press the Government to protect tenants during and after this crisis.

We have strong communities across Dulwich and West Norwood and it is very moving to see the large numbers of local people stepping up to support their neighbours who are having to self-isolate.  Both of our Councils have information on how to access help or volunteer to help.  Southwark’s information can be found here and Lambeth’s information is here.  I am in contact with local organisations who support constituents who are most vulnerable to Covid-19, including older people. I would also encourage anyone who is able to donate to our local food banks to give whatever you can. Shoppers who are stockpiling are making it difficult for food banks to access non-perishable food, and the need for food bank support is sadly likely to grow in the coming weeks. You can find out how to help here.

This will be a difficult time for many of my constituents, and I am working hard to respond to everyone who contacts me as soon as possible. As ever, please do let me know if there is anything I can do to help and please stay safe.