I am writing to you with another update about the Coronavirus pandemic.
Firstly, many of you will have seen yesterday’s announcement that there will be a renewed lockdown for the month of November. I know that there are strongly-held views on both sides of the argument about this, and so I will not enter into that debate in this message. But I am happy to answer individual points and queries if you contact me.
As you will be aware, the news of this plan emerged rather unexpectedly over the weekend, and I am still gathering information about the scope of what is being planned, and so I will provide a further update during the week. All of this will be subject to a confirmatory vote on Wednesday, but with both the Government and the Oppositions supporting it, it does seem certain to go ahead.
In the meantime though, here is what I know so far.
The period of lockdown will begin at one minute past midnight on Thursday morning, and will last until December 2nd. It is not an exact replica of what happened in the spring, but it will mean a wide range of businesses being asked to close and people being asked to stay at home except for essential purposes.
This is the detailed explanation of what the new rules can be viewed here.
Vulnerable & Elderly
You will see that vulnerable people and the elderly are not being asked to shield altogether and see no one during this period. But it is important to remember that it is the older generation and those with specific health conditions who are most at risk from the virus, and so if you are in those categories, please do look at the advice carefully. This is what it says:
If you are over 60 or clinically vulnerable, you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. You:
- should be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise your contacts with others
- should continue to wash your hands carefully and more frequently than usual and maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace
Clinically vulnerable people are those who are:
- aged 60 or over (regardless of medical conditions)
- under 60 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds):
- chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
- a weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions or medicines they are taking (such as steroid tablets)
- being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
I know that this is a particularly worrying time for people in business locally, particularly for those in the retail, leisure and entertainment and events sectors.
Firstly the furlough scheme is being extended through the month of November so that employers are hopefully able to retain staff until this is over.
This means that employees can retain their job, even if their employer cannot afford to pay them, and be paid at least 80% of their salary up to £2500 a month.
Employers small or large, charitable or non-profit are eligible and because more businesses will need to close, they will now be asked to pay just National Insurance and Pensions contributions for their staff during the month of November – making this more generous than the support currently on offer.
From the end of November a new scheme will begin and last through the winter.
Businesses will be able to choose between two types of Job Support Scheme – Open or Closed, depending on whether they are experiencing reduced demand or have been forced to close.
Moreover, any employee who was previously furloughed but retained until the end of January will be entitled to a £1,000 Job Retention Bonus – and they can also benefit from the Job Support Scheme.
In addition to this, there will be grants available for business premises which are required to close of up to £3,000 per month.
All the up-to-date information about the support available to businesses is being made available here.
If you are concerned about mortgage payments during the current period, the right to a mortgage holiday is to be extended. I will provide more information about this during the week.
If you need non-Coronavirus related medical treatment, please do still contact your GP and the NHS. Every effort is planned to avoid essential treatment being postponed again – and at the moment Epsom and St Helier hospitals are not among the hospitals most under pressure from the virus.
Surrey County Council COVID Information
Finally, Surrey County Council continues to co-ordinate much of the response to the pandemic locally. It will be updated this week after the weekend’s news. Please click here.
I will be back in touch during the week with additional information, and in particular about how to find help during the coming month if you need it, as well as how we can all support local businesses.