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Coronavirus update Friday 17th April 2020

I would like to start by expressing my sadness at the news of Norman Hunter’s passing. This news is made only more tragic in the context of the 13,000 people who have now lost their lives to Coronavirus in the UK. We must keep our resolve, persist with the lockdown for as long as it is necessary to contain this virus.

PPE update

I put out a call recently for anyone who may be making or able to acquire PPE to get in touch with my office. We are also in touch with the Care Homes, hospices and GP surgeries in our communities to make sure we understand the level of need and key concerns throughout this crisis. Yesterday, we received boxes of PPE from a variety of sources, including many thousand facemasks from a businessperson who trades with Vietnam. My neighbours Simon and Emma and I spent yesterday afternoon delivering the PPE to the care homes and hospices who we know are struggling. Much of today will be spent doing the same thing.

Whilst it feels good to be helping the community directly, it would be a lot better if the systems supposedly put in place by Government worked and that there is enough supply of PPE to protect our most vulnerable people.

Furlough

It seems the celebrations outlined in yesterday’s update were premature. Whilst it is good that the Government has brought forward the start date needed to qualify for the scheme, there is a caveat in place stating that new staff must be actually on the payroll on said date which has not provided relief to many people paid monthly. I will continue to push for fixes to ensure that nobody falls through the gap.

Lockdown

The Foreign Secretary set out the criteria that would have to be met for any lockdown easing:

1) Evidence that the NHS can cope across the UK

2) A sustained fall in daily death rates

3) Evidence that the rate of infection is decreasing

4) Confidence that supplies of testing and PPE are able to meet demand

5) No risk of a second peak

The first three sets of criteria are straightforward to measure. Criteria 4 and 5 are a little vaguer and require a degree of interpretation. The extension of the lockdown is clearly necessary, and we must all stick to it in order to save lives and expediate the end of the crisis. I would like to hear more about how the Government intend to supply confidence of testing and PPE as well as the measures needed to reduce the risk of a second peak once lockdown is over.

Testing for Care Homes

The Government will test all symptomatic care home staff and residents. In Leeds testing facilities have always been in place for symptomatic residents. The infection control team have been testing in care homes but it is yet unclear exactly how the national testing system for residents will operate.

Admission appeals for school places

The Department for Education has published guidance on the coronavirus in regard to impact on school admission appeals. Coronavirus will impact authorities on the ability to carry out admission appeals. But, parents must continue to have the right to appeal to any school which has refused their child a place. The Government will make regulatory changes that will that will relax some of the current requirements. This will enable admission authorities to proceed with their admission appeals. We expect the regulations them to come into force on 24 April 2020. The regulations will be time-limited and will expire on 31 January 2021. DfE will publish guidance to support admission authorities and local authorities to support in carrying out admission appeals over the coming months.

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