COVID-19: What is it?
COVID-19 is a strain of Coronavirus, which is a condition that affects the lungs. It starts with a fever, followed by a dry cough, which can lead to breathing problems. This means those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or lung disease, including asthma are at a higher risk if they contract it. As a significant number of elderly people have these conditions, they are also at a greater risk than the rest of the population. To put this into context, the flu virus can cause several thousand deaths a year, so the Government is currently advising older people to consider ‘social distancing’, rather than complete isolation.
Symptoms take, on average, five days to emerge, but it must be stressed that this is not in every case. The incubation period can last up to 14 days, but according to the World Health Organization, it has lasted for up to 24 days in some cases.
You can find full information here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan/coronavirus-action-plan-a-guide-to-what-you-can-expect-across-the-uk
The most important action we can all take is to accept personal responsibility to limit non-essential social contact, catch our coughs and sneezes in a disposable handkerchief, then dispose of it immediately, and wash our hands for 20 seconds more often. This includes when you return home, when you arrive at work and after using public transport.
Home working and emails
Following Government advice to avoid working in a busy office, many people have chosen to work from home and that is a good step in preventing a spread of this virus. With modern technology, it is possible to communicate by telephone, email and even video conferencing and I urge people to do this if possible.
The Secretary of State for Education has now announced that schools in the UK are closing from Friday 20th March 2020 until further notice. Schools will remain open to look after the children of keyworkers, such as frontline NHS staff, and to look after vulnerable children. Further information about exams for A-Level and GCSE students will be released in due course.
The general populace are more likely to transfer this virus to older people, rather than the other way around. I hope that everyone will consider the elderly people they know and telephone them to provide them with someone to speak to and to ensure that they have enough food and other supplies, particularly medical. This need not be restricted just to relatives, but people in your street, those who you may simply be aware of. Check to see that curtains are drawn each day and that letters and mail is not piling up.
Support for business
I understand how difficult this situation will be for businesses. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced unprecedented economic measures to support businesses – large and small. This includes £330 billion of guaranteed loans for businesses, equivalent to 15% of GDP. The Government has been clear that businesses in the hospitality sector, such as pubs and restaurants, which have insurance that covers pandemics can claim.
For smaller businesses in the hospitality sector who do not have insurance, there will be cash grants of £25,000 per business. Please visit the Government’s dedicated Business Support Helpline for more information about what support your business is entitled to: https://www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline
As of March 17th, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) now advises British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice takes effect immediately and it applies for an initial period of 30 days.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. All countries may restrict travel without notice. If you now need to change or cancel your travel plans, follow these steps:
1. Contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers
2. Get in touch with your insurance provider
3. Continue to follow the NHS coronavirus guidance
You must follow the advice of local authorities. Your safety and security are the responsibility of the local authority where you are.
For further information and the latest updates on travel advice and COVID-19, please read the Government website’s page on this issue: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus
COBRA and the PM
The Prime Minister is chairing a daily meeting of COBRA. This is the acronym that refers to Cabinet Office Briefing Room A, a meeting room at the Cabinet Office, which is used to co-ordinate the actions of the Government across the UK. The Prime Minister is undertaking a daily televised briefing to inform people what he has discussed and to update everyone on any progress as to how the Government is responding to events.
Television licence postponement
The BBC has announced that the introduction of television licenses for people aged 75 years old and over, will be postponed from 1st June until 1st August. This will allow people who do not have access to the internet and other news sources to continue updating themselves about this pandemic via their televisions, without having to pay for this service.
If you think you may have Covid-19, if you have travelled to an affected area or you have been in close contact with someone who has travelled to an affected area, you should visit www.nhs.uk.
You should only telephone 111 if you do not have access to the internet, if you feel that you cannot cope with your symptoms at home or if your condition worsens.
I hope that this information is useful. Please find below some links to pages on the Government website about some of the specific issues I have already mentioned:
Coronavirus (COVID-19): UK government response: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response
COVID-19: support for businesses: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses
Guidance on social distancing and protecting vulnerable people: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults