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Dear Friend,

COVID-19 is the most profound societal, economic and – above all – public health challenge since the Second World War. If anyone has doubted this, I hope that the recent change in public health advice to much more profound social distancing has shattered that illusion.  Quite simply, the national interest and the direct interest of everyone of us – and of all our loved ones, young and old - is now best served by following to the letter the advice from our Chief Scientific and Chief Medical Officers, implemented by the Government and as follows.

First, if you or anyone in your home has a high temperature or a new and continuous cough, you should stay at home for 14 days; 7 days if you live alone. If at all possible, you should not go out even to buy food and essentials. Instead, you should ask others for assistance with your daily necessities. The exception to that is for exercise, but even then, you should keep at a safe distance from others. If it is not possible to receive deliveries at home, you should do what you can to limit your social contact when you leave the house to get supplies.

Even if you or anyone in your household do not have symptoms, the Government has updated their advice. They are advising people against all unnecessary social contact with others and all unnecessary travel. People will need to start working from home if they possibly can.
Above all, I know that coronavirus will be a source of profound anxiety to all of you, but this crisis is also bringing out the best in human nature, with many examples of friends, neighbours and community groups rallying round to help each other. 

Even though Parliament has broken up for recess, my team and I are working remotely and continue to process unprecedented levels of casework as we help local businesses, charities, famers, schools and vulnerable people tackling all sorts of new problems from repatriation to domestic violence. We are inundated with Covid-19 enquiries so please bear with us if we don’t immediately solve your case. I am working with the Local Resilience Forum for East Sussex, both County and District Councils, and with Clinical Commissioning Groups to help respond to the crisis in a good and timely manner. 
 

This week’s developments

The new Covid-19 Advice section on my website offers information and summary pages on the situation,both locally and nationally.

For the most up-to-date guidelines and advice on how to protect yourself and others, please use the dedicated Government website.

I have called on the Business Secretary to immediately scrap the archaic Sunday trading laws that prevent shoppers getting vital supplies at the weekend. The absurd 6 hour opening window means key workers in Wealden and around the country left standing in long queues on the only day of the week they can stock up on essentials.

This weekend the first new ventilators will roll off the production line after the Government’s call to step up manufacturing, reaching NHS wards next week. The devices have met our high safety standards and help save lives in our hospitals.

Last Wednesday, the Chancellor announced a £22 billion grants and business rates package to help the High Street deal with the cost of the coronavirus pandemic. The package includes cash grants of up to £25,000 and exemption from business rates to support the businesses at the heart of every community.

Last Tuesday, the Education Secretary brought in a voucher scheme for schools providing free school meals so that no child staying at home during this crisis goes hungry. Parents of children eligible for free school meals will get a £15 to spend at supermarkets.

Last Monday, the Foreign Secretary announced that tourists stranded abroad will be able to get back to the UK, following an arrangement struck between the government and the airlines industry. I welcomed this £75 m scheme.

As both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have previously stated, the UK’s response to the crisis is proportionate and rooted in the scientific advice from the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser. Please see the Prime Minister’s recent letter to every household in Britain and the accompanying leaflet here.

Help for businesses

On 24th March I urged the Chancellor to take important measures to protect the self-employed. On 26th the Chancellor announced a world-leading scheme to support the  self-employed affected by the coronavirus. This will cover 95% of people who earn most of their living from self-employment with a cash grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profit over the last three years.

Businesses are the backbone of our economy. Hundreds of you have contacted me about the need to take swift action to support our local businesses. That is why the Chancellor committed £330 bn - equivalent to 15% of our GDP - to help businesses, through guaranteed loans and top-ups. 
 
For a summary of the steps taken by Government to protect businesses see the Support for Businesses section, on my website. For specific queries and help applying for grants and loans, please use the Government’s Business Support website.

  • Financial assistance for employers unable to pay statutory redundancy payments - click here
  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - click here.
  • Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments - click here.
  • Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs - click here
  • 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England - click here
  • Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief - click here
  • Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 - click here
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5million for SMEs through the British Business Bank - click here
  • A new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans - click here

The Wealden District Council website also features information for local businesses and an online application form for Grant Funding. For further information on funding, as well as other local issues, you can contact the Council on 01323 443322.

Almost a million people have applied for Universal Credit (UC) in the past fortnight – nearly ten times the amount we would normally expect. This is why there have been reports of long waiting times to apply.  But DWP have dedicated an extra 10,000 staff to the frontline and suspended all reviews and reassessments. So please do apply online or call the UC hotline on 0800 328 5644, if you are eligible (check here). The standard rate in UC will be increased by £20 a week for one year from April 6th, meaning claimants will be up to £1040 better off.
 

How you can help 
Thank you to those of you who have signed up to become NHS Volunteer Responders. The scheme has reached 750,000 and has been paused until the applications are processed.
 
You can still help by volunteering with the Red Cross,  logging the state of your health daily on the COVID Symptom Tracker, or by volunteering in your area.

We know that we can beat this crisis together and I am delighted to see local support groups offering help to those most in need. If you are vulnerable or someone you know is, and requires help, please call Wealden District Council’s special phoneline on 01323 443322 or complete this online form. Uckfield Volunteer Centre have also identified local groups working to help those in need across Wealden, which you can find here.

Many residents are getting in touch asking for my help in setting up local volunteer networks. I have collated as much local contacts as possible on my website - Information for Wealden Residents. If you know about or are part of a volunteer network, please let me know about it, by writing to nusrat.ghani.mp@parliament.uk. If you manage a business which carries out food deliveries or other delivery services, please do get in touch as well. I will include any relevant information in this section of my website.

If you are the administrator of a community or business Facebook page, please share any relevant information from this e-mail there.

Charities and community groups are a vital part of our response to the coronavirus pandemic. In Wealden alone there are 472 registered charities and the crisis has seen a surge in volunteering and support from the public. We need to ensure donations reach those most in need. In this time of need there have been reports of scammers seeking to exploit people’s generosity for their own gain. This is why the Charity Commission, working with the Fundraising Regulator, National Trading Standards and Action Fraud, is asking everyone to ‘give safely’ and donate only to genuine registered charities. By donating in this way the charity can be held formally accountable for how it spends your money.

In the meantime, stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.

Get coronavirus support as a clinically extremely vulnerable person visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable

For the latest on local developments please visit nusghani.org.uk and follow me on Twitter @Nus_Ghani

For the latest medical advice, guidance & advice visit NHS.uk/Coronavirus.

For details on the Government response to the Coronavirus outbreak visit Gov.uk/Coronavirus.

The Prime Minister is calling for a national effort in ventilator production to help fight Coronavirus. If you can produce ventilators, please call the BEIS Business Support helpline on 0300 456 3565 or email ventilator.support@beis.gov.uk.

For UK nationals abroad in need of help or assistance from the Foreign Office you can call (+44) 207 008 1500. If you require consular assistance, you can contact your nearest British embassy, high commission, or consulate.

Yours,
Nus