There is no doubt that we find ourselves in unchartered waters. It is understandable that people will be scared. However, the Government is doing all that it can to provide both the fiscal support & expert medical advice to ensure that the whole country gets through this pandemic.
The Prime Minister, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty & Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance continue to review & update the medical guidance daily. The country’s leading experts and some of the best medical minds in the world are forming the UK’s response to this virus – we need to trust & follow that advice. Whilst there will always be differing opinions on how to tackle an outbreak; we can but follow what the science is telling those experts.
There are plenty of ways that people can keep up to date with the advice – the Prime Minister is doing a daily press conference on TV, and local MPs including myself & Robert Buckland continue to post daily updates online. My office is extremely busy with queries so please be patient with my team and I as we try to get back to everybody as soon as possible.
MPs are still in Parliament despite the rest of London feeling like a ghost town. And whilst there have been MPs that have contracted the virus, democracy still needs to go on so that we can pass the emergency legislation in order to protect lives & ensure that everybody is equipped to deal with this outbreak. As a DWP Minister I have been actively involved in creating & bringing this legislation together – expected on Monday. This is in addition to the Chancellors £330bn of support for people & businesses. This is one of the largest amounts in the world and is equivalent to 15% of our GDP.
Those with mortgages who come under hardship will be given a three-month mortgage holiday, whilst we will protect any renter from being evicted with further support to be announced on Monday.
Schools are also closing for the majority of children today with the exception of children of key workers & vulnerable children. This will allow NHS workers, supermarket workers and others to keep going to work without having to worry about childcare. We will also ensure that those children on free school meals will continue to receive meals or vouchers.
I also welcome yesterday’s announcement of additional support for vulnerable claimants with their utility bills, and rightly the Government is providing Local Authorities with £500m for local hardship funds. There will be further announcements (events move so quickly, even as a I write!) and the Prime Minister has made it clear that people & businesses will be supported and given the money they need to get through this crisis.
This is a time where we all must do our bit. We need to follow the medical advice, we need to look out for, and support those in need of help in our community and we must show restraint and patience when shopping. Supermarkets are working exceptionally hard to keep the shelves stocked, which they can and will manage if we don’t stockpile.
Finally, I want to thank all those who have been able to keep working, keeping our vital services and shops running and offering to help others in our community – we all owe them a debt of gratitude in these difficult times.