Stay safe this Easter

I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter this weekend. It will probably feel like the strangest one we have ever celebrated, but it is actually a good time to reflect on its key message of hope and faith in the future.

Because day after day, time and again, I am struck by how the Coronavirus Crisis brings out the very best in our community – Corona Champions helping to get homeless people into safe accommodation, neighbours and friends shopping for each other, strangers calling strangers to have a chat, to reach out against the loneliness of isolation and disruption to our usual lives.

From Government Ministers, to Members of Parliament, to county, district and parish councils, charities and voluntary organisations, all of us, finding new ways to work and communicate, and ensure we are doing all we can at this challenging time.

I would like to take a moment to thank my small team, and especially Charlie, who has worked tirelessly with me seven days a week, all hours of the day and night, dealing with thousands of individual concerns and issues, many of which have been extremely urgent and serious.

Yet, as was ever the case, aside from the people working hard and doing their best, there are also those who use the situation to steal and cheat – plenty of Corona Champions, but also plenty of Corona Crooks. We must be vigilant of such people, especially those using online and remote scams.

Over the last week, there has been a flurry of scam behaviour, of the type that we should be familiar with. Text messages claiming to be from Kent Police about social distancing fines, from the Department of Education about changes to free school meals, from the Department of Work and Pensions on new benefit claims, from paypal, banks, and utility companies. So in these times it is as important as ever, indeed more so, to make sure that we all do the checks and balances that we would usually do. Don’t click on a link from an unknown email or text. Do look at official websites, mine included, for contact and helpline numbers of Government and other official services.

There have been reports of isolated criminal behaviour. There is no door-to-door virus checking service that you need to pay for. Don’t give your cash to anyone you don’t trust. If you need help, do contact the Super Neighbours scheme. The organising leaders for Super Neighbours are already established community leaders and work alongside council and parish hubs, as well as mental health and other support organisations, as needed.

If you are subject to criminal activity, then report it in the usual way. Neighbourhood Watch schemes are a quick way for the police to alert communities to anything suspicious or of concern in an area. So do consider joining up to one if you haven’t already.

So my message for this week is a warning to any would be Corona Crooks: we are watching out for you. And a huge thank you to all of the Community Corona Champions. Together we are making the difference together locally, and we will get through this.

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