For most of us, the Coronavirus situation has suddenly become very real and I know many people will be extremely worried. I imagine that you, like I, recall the first reports of this story early in the new year, firstly as an outbreak of a new disease in rural China, then by news that it had spread across different countries and then continents. Even with Italy seriously affected a few weeks ago, it was still difficult to understand just how quickly all our lives were about to change.
We are all going to be affected in some way and we all must play our part in the national effort to combat the spread of the virus. This is vital for protecting ourselves and everyone. Social distancing will help to reduce the spread of the virus, helping protect the most vulnerable and especially help ensure our NHS will be able to cope with the pressures it is likely to face.
For those who have unfortunately come into contact with the disease and are at this moment receiving treatment, to those who are stuck abroad; all our lives are disrupted and somewhat on hold for the time being. It is vital to keep this in mind when comprehending the latest advice; on closures of bars, pub, restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres. Our lives will change, but this will be temporary, we will get through this and by all of us following these measures we will save lives.
Today, schools are closed to all but a few children. This will be difficult for many parents, but will help stem the spread of the virus and ease the burden on our hospitals and medical staff. Equally, we should be patient with those businesses and public services which may take longer to provide their products and services; it is better for all of us that their public-facing staff take all the necessary precautions to keep themselves and their families safe. I would like to thank all our workers across a whole range of businesses and services who have been going the extra mile and will go above and beyond to help with the fight against this pandemic.
The Staffordshire Local Resilience Forum, made up of key local services, have been meeting over the last few days, working hard to ensure everything possible is being done locally to combat the virus and ensure critical services are as prepared as they can be. They are coordinating efforts from a number of important local services across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, including the NHS, Police, Fire and local councils.
We should also be considerate of those who are more vulnerable than ourselves. Especially for those in self-isolation or vulnerable categories, making a phone call or sending a message on social media to check someone is ok can make all the difference. Many of our local charities and community groups will be working hard to help support vulnerable people through this challenging time and if you are able to you may want to volunteer for one of these organisations.
The Government have announced unprecedented level of support to protect people’s livelihoods through the disruption. In the last few days this has included further measures to protect people’s jobs and protect incomes, paying 80% of wages up to £2,500 a month for those unable to work due to coronavirus. A number of further measures are also being taken to support businesses and self-employed with costs, including deferring taxes and extending access to finance. The welfare system will also be strengthened to ensure anyone who does find themselves in hard times has the financial support they need.
We are all affected by the Coronavirus, but if we are led by science and take all the precautions recommended by the Government, we will meet this challenge. I know how resilient we are in North Staffordshire, and I am entirely confident that we will stay calm and help each other through this period of time in a way which we can be proud of. We must all follow the latest Government and NHS advice, you can find links to the latest advice on my website - www.jackbrereton.co.uk/coronavirus
This article appeared originally in The Sentinel, 23rd March 2019.