Today marks the start of the second week of the coronavirus lockdown. This is an extremely difficult and disruptive time and what is being asked of everybody is unprecedented. The most important message remains stay home and stay safe. This makes it even more important to look after your mental and physical health as much as possible. Exercise every day if you can and see this guidance on mental health from the Department of Health and Social Care.
Many people have asked me about enforcement and it took some time for West Yorkshire Police to get clarity on the situation and what was expected of them. They have outlined their approach to policing the lockdown. As I am sure everyone can understand, individual police officers will have to use their judgement on a case by case basis. They will follow these guidelines:
Engage – We police by consent. Our initial police response will be to encourage voluntary compliance.
Explain – We will stress that this is a national public health emergency. Explaining that they are putting their own and other people’s lives at risk, and that they are contributing to placing the NHS under more pressure.
Encourage – We will ask them politely to comply with our requests, informing them of the potential consequences should they fail to do so.
Enforce – We may use our powers under the new legislation. This includes the ability to issue fines, use reasonable force to remove someone to their home address, or to make an arrest.
With regard to enforcement, the police have a range of powers to enforce the social distancing policy of the government: instruct people to go home, leave an area or disperse; ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking these rules; issue a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days; issue a fixed penalty notice of £120 for second time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence.
Protecting the vulnerable
The Leeds City Council hotline number for those vulnerable people who do not feel that they have appropriate support around them to manage the crisis is 0113 378 1877. Please do share this number as far and wide as possible.
This week (w.c. 23rd March), many people with high risk conditions have been notified through a letter or text from the NHS, or through direct contact from their hospital consultant or their local GP practice.
Nationally, it is estimated that there are 1.5 people who fall into this category of very high clinical risk, and in Leeds this number is estimated to be 14,000-15,000 people.
For many, with the help of family, friends or neighbours and those with existing support and care arrangements in place, this difficult period will be managed without the need for additional support. For others without strong networks, or whose networks are significantly disrupted by the pandemic, they will be unable to shield themselves without systematic support around the priority areas of: food, medicines, financial support and social connection.
People without robust arrangements are being asked in the first instance to register for assistance here: gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable or by phoning a national automated telephone service in order to register for support. Requests for support will then be relayed back to local government from the national database. Leeds of course has the number listed above which offers a direct local connection.
Housing Leeds has made a decision to suspend lettings to Council homes via our Choice Based Lettings system, with immediate effect. All advertised council homes as of 25th March have been withdrawn. Where an applicant has already been offered a Council home in a previous bidding cycle, this offer will be honoured, but there may be some delays in the home becoming available. If applicants have been offered a home, an officer will make contact with them in the next few days to discuss their individual circumstances and will be able to offer any further advice and support.
For more details on this see https://www.leedshomes.org.uk/
If someone is currently homeless or facing the prospect of homelessness they can continue to access Housing Options services by calling 0113 2224412
Ventillators and Testing
It is very disturbing that the Government seemed to have missed out on the EU ventilator scheme. I hope that this is a genuine mistake rather than an example of the Government putting optics about working with the EU above the lives of people in this country. Seee https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/26/no-10-boris-johnson-accused-of-putting-brexit-over-breathing-in-covid-19-ventilator-row
Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust is using the laboratory in Leeds as a regional centre for testing. This is being used to capacity and inpatient testing remains the priority. LTHT is expecting support from Public Health England to increase the amount of testing that can be done and to begin testing of staff. I am continuing to press the Government to expand their testing as it has really not been good enough so far.
We still have much to learn about this virus and new aspects are developing over time. There have been reports that some otherwise asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus experience a loss of smell and taste. If you are experiencing this, I would strongly advise that you self isolate for 14 days.
Thank you all. I will update again tomorrow.