18 March Covid-19 update
- Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel.
- We need people to start working from home where they possibly can, and you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other social venues.
- This advice is particularly important for people over 70, for pregnant women and for those with some health conditions.
- If you, or anyone in your household, has either a high temperature or a new and continuous cough, then you should stay at home for fourteen days.
That means that if possible you should not go out even to buy food or essentials, other than for exercise, and in that case stay at least two metres from others. If necessary, you should ask for help from others for your daily necessities. And if that is not possible, then you should do what you can to limit your social contact when you leave the house to get supplies.
Support for business
Yesterday, the Chancellor announced an unprecedented package of government-backed loans and guarantees to support business. We will stand behind businesses small and large – providing a £330 billion package of loans and guarantees – equivalent to 15 per cent of our GDP.
We will help all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors – meaning that none of these companies will have to pay business rates whatsoever for 12 months – a tax cut worth nearly £20 billion. We will also increase grants for the smallest businesses from £3,000 to £10,000.
For those in difficulty due to coronavirus, we are introducing a three month mortgage holiday – so that people will not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage while they get back on their feet.
The biggest fixed cost that many families face is their rent payment and it is right that we have regard to that. The Housing Secretary will be making a statement with further measures to protect renters through these difficult times, later today.
Yesterday, the Communities Secretary announced a temporary relaxation of planning rules – so that pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways to serve people having to stay at home.
Supermarkets and shopping
I am receiving reports from those who are self-isolating that they are struggling to get the groceries they need because others have stripped the supermarket shelves bare. I am working with Northumberland County Council to make sure we can get essentials to those at risk. If you have spare supplies, please contact neighbours to ensure they have enough too.
Supermarkets are starting to announce rationing measures to ensure everyone can get what they need, and my team is contacting our local stores to ask what more can be done. There are plenty of groceries to go round as long as everyone only buys what they need.
Morrison's is seeking to hire 3,500 extra staff to rapidly expand its home-delivery service, something I hope the other supermarkets seek to so as well.
Please do not buy "just one extra" packet or tin - a lot of people do not consider that to be stockpiling, but if everyone is doing it, that is how the shelves are emptying so quickly. If you do not need it, please do not buy it.
The Government is introducing time-limited emergency legislation to ensure we can protect the public through this uncertain time.
What you can do
The most important thing we can be doing to kill this virus is to be washing our hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or more and my keeping to the new social distancing guidelines. More on that HERE.
My colleague the Communities Secretary has relaxed planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to become hot food takeaways without seeking permission. Please contact your local pubs and restaurants to see if they offer this service and use it if you can.
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