I would like to start by thanking you for your continued discipline and dedication to the lockdown effort. On what was a very warm Easter weekend the lockdown seemed to be very well observed. The news from our hospitals continue to be grim and it was confirmed last night that 11,329 people in the UK have now died from COVID 19. Whilst there will be an official review into the lockdown measures this week, it is very unlikely that we will see a relaxing of any measure imminently. I realise that for many people this is a hugely difficult time and I would like to remind you that my office is here for anyone that needs help.
I have written extensively about the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which is particularly acute in the care sector. Last week, I highlighted the problems within hospices and in particular the Wheatfield’s hospice in Headingley
There is a critical shortage of PPE. Although Dominic Raab talks about the ‘bulk drop’ to local resilience forums, there have been too few making it to the care sector- particularly for those who usually rely on commercial supply chains. Nationally, there are now 92 care homes in which covid-19 has been detected. This will increase exponentially if we do not urgently address this problem and ensure adequate PPE for the care sector
Testing is another huge issue. We are currently operating at around one fifth of our end of April target. Testing could be the difference between a case of coronavirus in a care home being successfully managed or resulting in an unstoppable outbreak.
There is a freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247
That said, the Police have been clear that this is not the time for abusers to get away with it and they are continuing to act on instances of crime and arrest those who commit it. If you are suffering from or have been witness to domestic violence, please call 999 if it is safe to do so and the police will attend.
Whilst the new hotline is a welcome step, there needs to be real cross government collaboration to support this sector and this should include ring-fencing some of the Chancellor’s recently announced charity funding to support domestic abuse services and the wider violence against women and girls sector.
Labour will be speaking with organisations from across the sector next week and work with them to see what more is required to keep some of the most at risk people in our communities safe throughout this crisis.
The police have been enforcing lockdown locally. I would ask that residents continue to obey the lockdown rules in order to reduce the amount of police resource needed and to keep the infection rate as low as possible.
My office is continuing to assist those trapped abroad. Whilst there has been some funding for flights there still remains some very big problems. Phonelines are overwhelmed and it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to access accurate or helpful information. There is a disparity between some embassies and others and information about flights is patchy. Some airlines are charging vast sums of money for flights home and some are refusing to reimburse passengers for cancelled flights leaving them fearful of booking others.
The Government must charter flights where necessary, regardless of cost. They must establish clear MP liaison arrangements so that we can continue to effectively assist our constituent.
My staff team and I have been liaising with the Foreign office. We have also raised concerns with the new Shadow Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy, who has put these concerns directly to Dominic Raab.
The leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg says parliament will return on 21 April “to fulfil its essential constitutional functions.” I believe that this should only be done subject to the medical advice at the time. MPs cannot be responsible for further spread of coronavirus, particularly when there are technological solutions available.
Vaccinations for all
I signed a letter coordinated by the All-Party Group on Vaccines. It called on the Prime Minister to take steps to support health technology. The letter called on the Prime Minister to impose public interest conditions on funding for a vaccine. This includes ensuring the vaccine is affordable to ordinary members of the public. It also called for a World Health Organisation global resource pooling mechanism and to issue crown licenses to upscale production of COVID battling products.