Published 18th March 2020 – for the latest advice see the Coronavirus section of my website.
Many people have asked me a host of questions on the Coronavirus. So I am setting out as complete an overview as possible at this time. I hope this is helpful in providing information so you will know what has happened, the action that is being taken and as much information as there is to hand to help people in different walks of life.
The danger of the Coronavirus
The Coronavirus is a flu-type virus that first transmitted from animals to humans in Wuhan, China. It is infectious – on average each person with the virus will infect 2.5 other people. It can be deadly. The older people are, the more dangerous to life the virus is. The evidence is that up to the age of 40, 1 in 500 people will lose their lives to the virus. This then rises steadily to 15% for people who are over 80.
What the Government is doing to beat the Coronavirus
The Government’s strategy is simple. It is to save lives – whatever it takes. The experts advise that however much care we take, it will not be possible to stop the virus entirely, it will only be possible to delay the spread. Why is this important? Because delaying the spread successfully will mean people catch the virus at a rate that will not overwhelm the NHS. Put simply, if we can avoid the NHS being overwhelmed, more lives will be saved.
As with all such infections, it is expected that immunity will build up as the infection rate increases across the population. However, we can save more lives if those who are infected are among the strongest, not the most vulnerable. That is why firm action is being taken to shield the most vulnerable people with underlying health conditions and older people.
Over the next few weeks there is likely to be a lot of discussion about this and I have no doubt there will be strong views on all sides. However, the Government has been clear that its decision making is science led and informed by the experience of countries where the virus has spread more quickly than our own.
How this affects you
Life is not going to be the same for some time. The Government has taken strong measures to bring in “social distancing”. Large events are no longer going ahead – whether it is the theatre or the football field. Workplaces are doing all they can to make home working easier. Some people have stocked up preparing for the worst which has caused temporary shortages while shops restock. It is a very long time since we had a serious pandemic. We are all adapting to a new world and a very different challenge.
There is no doubt that the pandemic will have a very serious impact on our economy. All businesses will find the next six months very tough. The Government has taken immediate action to help and more support will be provided.
Below I set out the advice on a range of topics and where to seek help. The advice is changing as the circumstances change, so please do follow the official guidance for the best and most up to date advice and guidance. Urgent and detailed work is being undertaken with public bodies, agencies and others to ensure that our country is best able to meet the challenge. Further guidance and information will follow.
Prevention – To protect yourself against the virus you should:
- Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. This is the length of time it takes to sing “happy birthday” twice. If there is no soap then use hand sanitizer
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Always use a handkerchief or tissue if you can. If not, cough into your sleeve – not your hands. Bin any used tissue immediately
- Only travel on public transport if you really need to. Avoid events with lots of people and avoid having visitors / friends / family to your home
- Work from home if you can
- Contact your GP online to the extent you can
Beating the bug – Here is what you should do to beat Coronavirus:
- If you think you have Coronavirus, stay at home. You should stay at home if you have a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back. Or you have a new, continuous cough. This means you’ve started coughing repeatedly;
- Don’t go to a GP surgery or hospital;
- Be particularly careful to keep away from vulnerable people – older people or people who are pregnant; and
- If your condition gets worse or you have not started to get better after a week, you should call NHS 111.
The latest and most detailed health advice from the NHS can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
All but essential travel to other countries should be avoided. British nationals stranded abroad can call 0207 008 1500. Further advice on travel and for people who are living overseas can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus
Statutory sick pay will now be paid from day one. Further detailed advice for workers can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-guidance-for-employees
Schools remain open. However, staff, young people and children should stay at home if they are unwell with suspected Coronavirus – otherwise they should attend school as normal.
This situation remains under review. Schools continue to get advice from the Government and to advise parents in turn. The detailed latest guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19
The Government set out a range of measures to support business in the Budget. The measures include:
- A statutory sick pay relief package for small businesses;
- Business rate relief for small businesses and pubs;
- A small business grant for all businesses receiving small business or rural rates relief;
- Loan support for businesses suffering interruption; and
- More time to pay taxes
Further measures are expected in due course. More detail can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses
I have been in touch with a number of community leaders and their organisations as I know many people want to do their bit to support others in our community. I will be providing a further update on this in due course.