CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION for constituents
I have received a large volume of messages from constituents who are understandably concerned about Coronavirus. It is a fast-moving situation and it is having a dramatic impact on so many different aspects of our lives.
Below is a list of links and sources of information on a wide variety of topics. I will keep this as up to date as possible in what is a fast-moving situation.
I've summarised information under the following categories (as of March 27, 2020):
- Government advice
- Business and employment
- Mental Health
The Coronavirus pandemic is a fast-moving and evolving situation so regular updates are being provided.
The single most important thing we can all do to help slow the spread of the virus and save our NHS from being overwhelmed is to stay at home. Here's the guidance: https://gov.wales/staying-home-and-away-others-guidance
That is why the government announced three new measures on March 23, 2020:
- requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
- closing non-essential shops and community spaces
- stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public
Everyone must comply with these new measures.
The police now have the powers to enforce this via fines and dispersing gatherings.
WELSH GOVERNMENT PRESS CONFERENCES: ON TV AND RADIO
- You can also now watch the Welsh Government's daily press briefing on BBC One Wales from Monday, March 23rd
- You can listen in on Radio Wales just after 4pm and on Radio Cymru during Dros Gynio.
UK GOVERNMENT ADVICE
The UK Government's advice hub is here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
You can ALSO get the latest Coronavirus updates from the UK Government direct to your mobile phone using WhatsApp.
To access it, all you have to do is add 07860 064422 to your contacts and send the message "hi" to that number on WhatsApp get started.
The most important source of public health information on Coronavirus is the PUBLIC HEALTH WALES website: https://phw.nhs.wales/coronavirus
What to do if you think you have symptoms?
You can use the NHS Wales symptom-checker: https://www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/SelfAssessments/symptomcheckers/COVID19.aspx.
Please DO NOT go to your GP Surgery, a pharmacy or hospital.
We have set out five simple steps to help people use GP services to protect themselves and healthcare staff. These are available at https://gov.wales/simple-steps-help-your-gp-practice-help-you
Boots UK has confirmed to the Welsh Government that due to the unprecedented health challenges we are facing, it is waiving prescription delivery charges for patients over 70 and those with underlying health conditions.
Repeat Prescriptions Guidance please go to: https://gov.wales/repeat-prescriptions-and-covid-19-guidance-primary-care.
The Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Wales has published five simple steps to help people help their local pharmacist https://gov.wales/simple-steps-help-your-pharmacy-help-you.
The Welsh Government has published guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable - here: https://gov.wales/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-people-defined-on-medical-grounds-as-extremely-vulnerable-from-coronavirus-covid-19-html
Many people are concerned about testing for coronavirus. A statement was issued about this by the Welsh Government on Friday March 20 here: https://gov.wales/written-statement-coronavirus-covid-19-testing
A further written statement was published on March 21: https://gov.wales/written-statement-coronavirus-covid-19-update
Schools were closed on Friday March 20. From Monday March 23, they reopened to provide support for those children who cannot safely be looked after at home and for children of parents who are defined as critical key workers.
FAQs about school closures
A Q&A about how schools will work from Monday March 23 is available at https://gov.wales/how-schools-will-work-during-coronavirus-pandemic
5 things you need to know before sending your children to school or childcare
Key workers whose children are entitled to provision at school: https://gov.wales/written-statement-eligibility-ongoing-provision-children-who-are-vulnerable-or-whose-parents-are
Learners due to sit their GCSEs and A levels this summer will be awarded a fair grade to recognise their work, drawing on the range of information that is available. It has just been announced that Education Minister Kirsty Williams has decided that Year 10 and 12 students who were due to sit exams this summer will not be required to sit these exams at a later date.
The latest information on exam arrangements for AS and Year 10 is here:
Free School Meals
The Welsh Government has confirmed support for families of children who receive free school meals – up to £7m will be provided to local authorities to ensure free school meals are still available after schools are closed. https://gov.wales/welsh-government-makes-7-million-available-support-pupils-while-schools-are-closed
The main port of call is the Welsh Government's web pages for business support: https://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-support-businesses with advice on:
- Business Rate Relief
- New small business grant
- Business interruption loan scheme
Additional business support
Get help and support for your business on Business Wales, or phone 03000 6 03000.
Get grants, loans and investment for your business on Development Bank of Wales, or phone 0800 587 4140.
More business information
The UK and Devolved Government’s Coronavirus Action Plan can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan
UK Government Guidance for Employers:
Advice for employers and employees from ACAS can be found here: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
Job retention scheme information
HELP FOR EMPLOYEES
The UK Government will cover up to 80% of employees’ wages for employees that would otherwise be laid off, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month per employee as a grant.
This wage support will last for at least 3 months. This can be backdated and apply to employees who were on payroll as of 28 February, even if they have since been let go.
On March 26 the UK Government announced help for people who are self-employed: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-gives-support-to-millions-of-self-employed-individuals
Consumer advice organisation Which has launched a dedicated coronavirus consumer rights hub here: https://www.which.co.uk/news/coronavirus/
Online supermarket shopping is proving difficult for many people with services under severe strain.
I have written to the chief executive of Sainsbury’s after constituents told me they cannot register as vulnerable to qualify for deliveries because this is currently an England-only facility.
The Welsh Government launched (on Sunday 22 March 2020) a campaign about how to help people who are staying at home because of coronavirus.
- The Looking Out for Each Other campaign focuses on the small things we can all do to help each other during the pandemic.
- It provides practical guidance about how everyday tasks, like running errands or simply staying in touch, can be done safely, without physical contact to minimise the risk of contracting coronavirus.
- It will also share information about how to stay mentally and physically active.
- A new online hub – www.gov.wales/safehelp has also been launched and includes a ‘helping hand’ card, which can be downloaded and put through the letterboxes of neighbours to offer help to those who are isolating.
Cardiff Council has launched a volunteer scheme, which includes helping vulnerable people with their shopping. You will need to phone the Advice line on 029 2087 1071, and you will be put in touch with volunteers who will be able to help. More information about volunteering in Cardiff: www.volunteercardiff.co.uk.
Volunteering across Wales
Wales has had a system running for 2 weeks using a platform called Volunteering in Wales. It is run by the 19 County Voluntary Councils across the whole country. Volunteer details are being gathered and matched to local opportunities. See: https://volunteering-wales.net/vk/volunteers/index.htm
Mind has useful contacts including on befrienders.org and the Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L.)
0800 132 737 (helpline)
Samaritans offers emergency mental health help by phone – helpline number 116 123
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Children’s Commissioner for Wales
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has launched a dedicated hub offering advice for children and young people on coronavirus. It also includes ideas for activities and advice on keeping fit.
The Open University offers free learning, bite-sized courses on 900+ subjects, quizzes, interactive games, videos and more:
Live Fear Free - All Wales Abuse and Violence Helpline
Tel: 0808 8010 800
The Silver Line is a free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Vehicle owners will be granted a 6-month exemption from MOT testing, enabling them to continue to travel to work where this absolutely cannot be done from home, or shop for necessities.
All cars, vans and motorcycles which usually would require an MOT test will be exempted from needing a test from 30 March 2020.
Vehicles must be kept in a roadworthy condition, and garages will remain open for essential repair work.
Drivers can be prosecuted if driving unsafe vehicles.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): MOTs for cars, vans and motorcycles due from 30 March 2020
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): MOT centre and tester guidance
From Monday 23 March, Transport for Wales announced it will provide all NHS workers free travel to and from work until 30th April on production of their NHS ID.
A reduced timetable is in operation – information here: https://tfwrail.wales/covid-19
The Welsh Government has published advice for tenants here: https://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-tenants-in-the-private-rented-sector-html
Help to Buy
On March 18 the Welsh Government said it would introduce a temporary three-month interest repayment holiday for interest-bearing Help to Buy Wales customers who may suffer financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus outbreak
Emergency legislation to protect renters and landlords
- Emergency UK legislation to protect renters and landlords affected by COVID-19 will apply to Wales:
- New protection under the emergency bill will include:
- Landlords will be unable to start possession proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three month period during the crisis and;
- The three month mortgage payment holiday will be extended to Buy to Let mortgages to protect landlords.
- Information here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters
The Welsh Government is making £10m available to councils in Wales to help them to take immediate and direct action to protect the homeless and rough sleepers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.