Coronavirus Update - 21.12

On Saturday, Boris Johnson announced at the last minute that London would be moved into the new Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions and that planned household mixing over Christmas will be cancelled for Londoners. This will be a devastating blow for local businesses who have only just reopened, and for families across our constituency who were looking forward to reuniting after this difficult year. You can see the full rules below.

The spread of the new more infectious strain of Covid-19 is extremely worrying and it is important that we all follow the new rules and do whatever we can to stop its rapid spread across our communities. However, it is also clear that Boris Johnson and the Tories have once again waited far too long to act, let the virus spread out of control and caused chaos and distress for thousands of families and small businesses who were left with plans in disarray and no time to adjust. Only last week the Government dismissed legitimate concerns about the safety of the planned Christmas easing as inhumane, and many families will have made travel plans and other arrangements on this basis.

At the end of this extraordinarily difficult year, I know how much so many people were looking forward to the comfort of time with family and friends.  By acting far too late, Boris Johnson is compounding the pain of the coronavirus pandemic, promising one thing, but then ripping up long-made plans at the last minute. The Prime Minister must show some leadership, be honest with the country and stop leaving the difficult decisions until it is too late.

Wherever you are, please keep yourself and others safe, have a Happy Christmas and a peaceful and healthy New Year.

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Coronavirus Update - 15.12

Over the past week, London has seen a rapid rise in coronavirus cases. I have been in regular contact with our local NHS and public health teams and Ministers and I am in no doubt that the increase in infections is very worrying, and demands an additional response. New infections sadly will inevitably translate to further hospitalisation and deaths. It is vital that we all continue to do whatever possible to limit the spread of the virus as we wait for the vaccine to be rolled out.

Yesterday the Government announced that London will be entering Tier 3 restrictions from midnight tonight.  This means that from tomorrow, Wednesday 16 December:

  • You cannot mix indoors, in private gardens or in most outdoor venues, except with your household or bubble
  • You should work from home if possible
  • You can meet in a group of up to six in other outdoor spaces, such as parks, beaches or countryside
  • Shops, gyms and personal care services (such as hairdressing) can stay open
  • Bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must stay closed, except for delivery and takeaway
  • Indoor entertainment venues - such as bowling alleys and cinemas - must stay closed
  • People are advised not to travel to and from tier three areas

Whilst I know that these restrictions are needed, this will be devastating news for many businesses and families across Dulwich and West Norwood. I remain deeply concerned about the lack of financial support for businesses unable to open, particularly pubs, restaurants and performance venues, whilst far too many people remain excluded from Government support schemes. The Government must urgently act to close these gaps in support and as I did yesterday, I will continue to call for much more support.

The previously announced relaxation of restrictions over the Christmas period for five days from 23 December will remain.  I know how much the ability to be together with family and friends at Christmas means to people, particularly after the sacrifices of the past nine months, but as the virus is still so widespread and cases are increasing, it is so important that everyone remains cautious and vigilant about the risk of spreading the virus to your loved ones over the Christmas holiday period when you are making plans.

Please keep safe at this difficult time. Along with my small team, I am working hard to support everyone in my constituency who needs help.  Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to support you.  I am still receiving an exceptionally high level of correspondence, so please bear with me and my small team as we work hard to get back to everyone as quickly as possible. 

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Statement on Covid-19 - December 2020

Yesterday, Parliament voted to approve the regulations for the revised Tier system of restrictions starting from today. This places London in Tier 2 meaning that pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops can reopen but on a strictly Covid-safe basis with some restrictions. The rule of six applies to meeting with people from other households outdoors, but household mixing indoors continues to be banned.

Today brings the fantastic news that the first of the coronavirus vaccines has been confirmed to be safe, has been approved for use in the UK and will start to be rolled out from next week, though it will take several months for the vaccine to be available to everyone.  In the meantime the level of coronavirus in our community remains high, thousands of people are being diagnosed and several hundred people are still losing their lives to this dreadful disease every day and we must keep doing everything possible to reduce the spread and protect each other while we wait to be vaccinated. 

Throughout the pandemic, I have been in regular contact with King’s College Hospital and I pay tribute to the hard work of staff. Allowing the virus to spread uncontrolled would quickly overwhelm our NHS. As well as deaths from Covid-19, this would mean impossible demands on staff who have already been through so much this year, and lead to chaos in essential services like A+E and cancer treatment.  For these reasons, I have no doubt that continued restrictions are necessary for the time being.

 

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Helen writes to the Home Office ahead of return flight to Jamaica on December 2nd

Many of my constituents have contacted me to express their concern about the Government’s planned return flight of 50 people to Jamaica. I am alarmed that the Government is pushing ahead with deportation flights when they have still failed to implement the recommendations of the Windrush Lessons Learned review in full. Many of the people who are booked on this flight have lived in the UK since childhood and do not have any family or connections in Jamaica, and more than half have children in the UK.  Previous deportation flights have included Windrush citizens and people whose cases are still going through the judicial process.  Until the Lessons Learned Review has been implemented in full, there is a serious risk that further injustice will be done. I have written on behalf of my constituents to the Home Secretary to urge her to cancel this flight >>

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Helen calls on the Foreign Secretary to act in support of the #EndSARS protests

The brutal repression of peaceful protestors in Nigeria is horrific and unacceptable. Independent observers have documented the violent actions of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protestors’ call for the abolition of SARS officers, an independent investigation into their use of torture, and for wider reform in Nigeria must be heard. I have written to the Foreign Secretary and you can see my letter below:

 

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Cineworld and Picturehouse Cinemas and furlough scheme

In October, Cineworld announced that all of its Picturehouse cinemas, including three sites in Dulwich and West Norwood, were to close indefinitely. Staff were offered an impossible choice between redundancy or unpaid leave whilst others resigned in order to be able to reclaim unpaid holiday leave. This left them facing months without pay or looking for a new job in the middle of a further lockdown. I wrote to Cineworld at the time to oppose this decision and have been in regular contact with unions representing staff. I am dismayed to hear that, whilst staff on unpaid leave will be furloughed, Cineworld is refusing to rehire & furlough staff who were made redundant prior to the extension of the furlough scheme denying them vital support. I have written again to the Chief Executive of Cineworld to urge him to reconsider >>

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Helen challenges the Minister on outsourcing during the pandemic

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the Tories have awarded large government contracts to their friends and donors. We have expertise in our local NHS and public health teams, but companies with no track record of delivery have been hired for billions of pounds to run Test and Trace and supply PPE, leading to chaos. You can see my question to the Minister here>>

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Support for families over the school holidays

Earlier this week, the Government finally gave in to pressure and committed to providing much needed support for low income families through the school holidays. I welcome the increased funding for food charities and local authorities and the expansion of the holiday food programmes, but this came too late for many families abandoned by the government over the October half-term. The Labour Party brought forward a plan a month ago to continue funding for families eligible for free school meals through the holidays, but the Government shamefully voted this down, whilst Tory backbenchers treated families in poverty with contempt.

Our local councils, Lambeth and Southwark, and many community groups across Dulwich and West Norwood, inspired by Marcus Rashford’s campaign, stepped up to fill the gap in support. But in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, feeding hungry children should not be up for debate and it should not be a postcode lottery. I will continue to call on the Government to reverse their damaging cuts to welfare support and tackle the growing levels of child poverty in our country.

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Remembrance Sunday 2020

This Remembrance Sunday it has not been possible to gather for public acts of remembrance in the usual way. I laid wreaths at several of the memorials in my constituency of Dulwich & West Norwood. Our history is rich, varied and full of many moving collective and individual stories.
The memorial in the garden of St Stephen’s South Dulwich commemorates parishioners who lost their lives in both world wars.
The memorial at Herne Hill station was installed last year by the Herne Hill Society to remember residents of Herne Hill who died in WW1, the culmination of a history research project involving students from Charter North Dulwich which uncovered individual stories street by street.
The sundial memorial on the Vincennes Estate commemorates those who served with the French Resistance during WW2 including Violette Szabo an extraordinary young woman from Lambeth who was murdered in the Ravensbruck concentration camp.
The African and Caribbean War Memorial on Windrush Square in Brixton commemorates the thousands of men and women from Africa and the Caribbean who served with British armed forces in WW1 and WW2.
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Helen leads debate on Royal Mail services in SE22

Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March, I've received so many reports from constituents in the East Dulwich area who have not been receiving regular postal deliveries, sometimes for two or three weeks at a time.
When Royal Mail announced the closure of the Silvester Road delivery office in 2017, I warned that this would be a disaster for residents in the SE22 postcode area. The company put profit before public service and sold the Silvester Road delivery office for more than £7m.
I pay tribute to all our postal workers who have been working very hard throughout the crisis in very difficult circumstances. They are being let down by working conditions which are not fit for purpose. This week, I took this issue to Parliament.
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