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Coronavirus update Monday 27th April

I hope this update finds you well and that you have had a pleasant weekend. I am sad to report that the UK death rate from COVID-19 stands at 20,732. In Leeds, we have seen 1209 confirmed cases and 150 deaths in hospital. Passing 20,000 deaths in the UK is a grim milestone to have reached. This figure does not include those who have died at home or in our care homes. Again, this underlines the clear message that we must all do everything that we can to stay at home and save lives.

Lockdown

We are into our sixth week of lockdown. In general compliance has been very good and I have been touched to see how well we are all working together in the interest of others and in protecting the health of our nation. That said, there are early signs of lockdown fatigue and the fact that we are in the dark about how long this might last for and what preparations are being done to recover from this crisis is not helping. Below are the five tests the Government have set out as to when we might see lockdown relaxed.

  1. We must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK.

  2. We need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from coronavirus so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak.

  3. We need to have reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.

  4. We need to be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.

  5. We need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS.

These are not unreasonable measures to look to and it is understandable that we may not be able to tell yet, how long meeting these tests will take. That said, we know that there are discussions in cabinet today regarding how we might end lockdown when the time comes. We believe that the British public must be part of that conversation. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said at the weekend, “The British public have made great sacrifices to make the lockdown work. They deserve to be part of an adult conversation about what comes next. If we want to take people with us and secure their consent, this is necessary now.”

PPE

Thank you to all those who have contacted me over the weekend with suggestions of where to find PPE. My team will leave no stone unturned on this. We are also compiling a list of businesses that sell PPE and will pass on that list to our care homes, GPs and hospices also. I am also very aware that there are several other areas where PPE is not available. Supermarket staff, dentists and school staff for example all have good reason to have access to protection and we must work to an end where everyone who may need protection may get some. There were also reports in the media at the tail end last week regarding problems with PPE at a Leeds hospital and I am looking into that as well.

If there is anyone who may have access to PPE or is able to make some please do contact alex@alexsobel.co.uk

Public transport – social distancing measures on buses.

West Yorkshire is operating at around 40-50% mileage on buses, operating to a largely hourly service with priority to key worker travel needs. Ridership is 13% of usual levels with elderly/ disabled free bus pass use at 10% of normal level. I have received the below update as to the standards being set on our buses. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our bus drivers, who are putting themselves at risk every day keeping our other key workers moving.

  1. Cleaning / hygiene- higher standard of cleaning especially touchpoints, drivers issued with hand sanitiser

  2. Driver protection/ PPE – bus companies that didn’t have “assault screens” are fitting them and are sealing where necessary to reduce air flow. All WY buses are single door so no opportunity to use middle/ end doors as in London.

  3. Some companies giving drivers gloves, no masks in use (as per WHO/ PHE guidance for non clinical use of masks however the Mayor of London is pushing for mask use by public transport workers

  4. Social Distancing – operators putting signs / floor markings etc to promote social distancing.

  5. Duplicate buses put on busy trips. Specific guidance on social distancing and buses awaited from Department of Transport. They are promoting contactless payment but have not withdrawn cash due to concerns about social exclusion implications of this. Nationally Arriva introduced exact fare only from this week- monitoring the impact of this.

Holiday cancellations

If an airline cancels a flight, then there is European Regulation to protect the consumer. The airline must issue a full cash refund or allow the consumer to rebook for a future date. The passenger should make a claim for a cash refund to the airline or through the travel company.

FCO advice means that flights cannot leave the UK. Any refund on the cost of the accommodation would depend on the contractual terms of the booking. Airbnb currently states on its website that travellers can cancel reservations made on or before 14 March 2020, with a check in date of 14 March – 14 April 2020.

Package holidays have the benefit of financial protection. This means the consumer may be entitled to a refund should the operator become insolvent. If the operator cancels any element of the package holiday, the consumer has the right to request a full cash refund. The consumer must claim the refund within 14 days of the cancellation.

A consumer whose operator has cancelled the holiday should check with their travel insurer. Much would depend on the type of insurance bought. You can access legal advice free of charge from Citizens Advice Bureaus. There is also useful consumer information on the ABTA, ABI and GOV.UK websites.

Vets

UK vets are urgently calling on the government to grant vet practices business rates relief, as COVID-19 restrictions mean many practices face closure, risking the health of millions of animals. During the COVID-19 crisis, vets are obliged by law to continue administering urgent and emergency care, while current government guidelines prevent practices from providing their full range of services.

Turnover has plummeted by more than 75% for nearly a quarter of vets, with two-thirds of practices seeing turnover slashed by 50% or more. While retailers, pet shops and a range of other businesses are eligible for rates relief, veterinary practices are specifically excluded. This is causing many vets to close and will certainly increase the risks to animals and the anxiety of pet owners. Likewise with dentists and nurseries, the Government must carefully consider businesses that fall outside of the current help on offer and step in to save crucial businesses from closure.

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