COVID-19 Advice for Constituents

The coronavirus outbreak is the biggest public health emergency in a generation. These are unprecedented times for everyone, so to help, I will update this page with the latest advice from the Government and NHS.

Should you have any questions, or if I can help then please do get in touch. My office continues to support and assist constituents with all enquiries and casework, and I am carrying out daily phone surgeries for the most urgent cases.

If you have any questions please contact me on laura.trott.mp@parliament.uk , or by calling us on 020 7219 4964.

 

CURRENT GUIDANCE

In May the Government set out its 5 tests, which would determine the phased return out of lockdown. Thanks to the efforts of the British people, the guidance has since been updated, with gradual changes coming into force. 

Latest Government guidance in full can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Please visit the below link for a helpful Q&A: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do

For the latest NHS guidance visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/check-if-you-have-coronavirus-symptoms/

 

INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES

  • Up to six people from different households can meet outside, including in gardens and other private outdoor spaces.
  • Those from different households must however continue strictly to observe social distancing rules by staying two metres apart.
  • Single adult households - adults living along or single parents with children under 18 - can now form a "support bubble" with one other household. 
  • All those in a support bubble will be able to act as if they live in the same household - meaning they can spend time together inside each others' homes and do not need to stay two metres apart.
  • Support bubbles must be exclusive - meaning you cannot switch the household you are in a bubble with or connect with multiple households. 
  • If any member of the support bubble develops symptoms, all members of the bubble will need to follow the advice on household isolation.
  • No one who is shielding is advised to form a support bubble, given then vulnerability. 

PROTECTING THE CLINICALLY VULNERABLE

  • The clinically vulnerable can now go outside with members of their household, while continuing to follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Those who live alone can meet outside with one other person from another household.

SCHOOLS

  • Nurseries, other early years settings and reception, year one and year six in primary schools can now return to school.
  • Schools remain open for all vulnerable children (including children in need, those with an Education, Health and Care plan and those assessed as otherwise vulnerable by educational providers or local authorities) and the children of critical workers are able to attend school, as is currently permitted.
  • Paid childcare, for example nannies and childminders, can continue to work - subject to being able to meet the public health principles.
  • The Government acknowledges that some schools may not be able to reopen immediately, and has committed continuing to work with the sector to ensure any schools experiencing difficulties are able to open as soon as possible.

RETAIL

  • Outdoor markets and car showrooms can reopen, provided they meet COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers.
  • High street retailers and department stores, including book shops, electronics retailers, tailors, auction houses, photography studios, indoor markets, and shops selling clothes, shoes and toys, can open their doors again provided they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines set out by the government in May.
  • Retailers will need to take certain steps to protect customers and staff, including limiting the number of customers allowed inside at one time, placing protective coverings on large items such as sofas which may be touched by passing shoppers, and frequently checking and cleaning objects and surfaces.
  • Employers should also display a notice visibly in their shop windows or outside their store to show their employees, customers and other visitors that they have followed this guidance.
  • There are 8 workplace guidance documents now available here: Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance

ELITE ATHLETES

  • if you are an elite athlete as defined by this guidance, you can now train and compete using the specified gyms, pools and sports facilities you need.

PLACES OF WORSHIP

  • Places of worship can reopen for independent prayer, subject to COVID-19 secure guidance. 

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

  • Face coverings will be required while using public transport in England.
  • Bus, coach, train, tram, ferry and aircraft passengers must wear a face covering on their journey to help reduce the risk of transmission when social distancing is not always possible - with government also working with operators to ensure staff are provided with face coverings where appropriate.
  • People should wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before putting their face covering on and after taking it off and it is important that people don’t touch their face covering when wearing it, where possible, to avoid hand to mask transmission of the virus.
  • Face coverings are not the same as face masks. It is important that people do not use medical grade PPE masks to ensure these remain available for frontline staff.
  • As with workplaces, transport operators should follow appropriate guidance to make their services COVID19 Secure. Latest guidance for operators can be found here:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-transport-guidance-for-operators
  • Last month, the government set out advice for people on how to make their own face coverings easily at home, using scarves or other textile items. These face coverings should cover the mouth and nose while allowing the wearer to breathe comfortably and can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head to give a snug fit.
  • Face-coverings should not be used by children under the age of two, or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, for example primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

OUTDOOR ATTRACTIONS

  • Outdoor attractions where visitors remain in their own vehicles can reopen. This includes drive in cinemas and safari parks.
  • Zoos will also be allowed to open, subject to appropriate safeguards 

 

FROM SATURDAY 4th JULY

  • Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will be able to reopen, providing they adhere to COVID Secure guidelines.
  • Two households will be able to meet up in any setting with social distancing measures and people can now enjoy staycations in England with the reopening of accommodation sites.
  • Some leisure facilities and tourist attractions may also reopen in order to begin restoring the arts and cultural sector, if they can do so safely – this includes outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs, places of worship and community centres.
  • Following a review, the Prime Minister set out that where it is not possible to stay two metres apart, guidance will allow people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’. This means staying one metre apart, plus mitigations which reduce the risk of transmission.
  • 'Close proximity' venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys and spas will remain closed for now. The Government is continuing to work with these sectors to establish taskforces to help them to become COVID Secure and reopen as soon as possible.

 

FROM MONDAY 6th JULY

  • Those shielding from coronavirus can gather in groups of up to 6 people outdoors, including those outside of their household, while maintaining social distancing. Those who are shielding and live alone or are single parents with children can form a ‘support bubble’ with another household.

 

FROM SATURDAY 1ST AUGUST

  • The guidance will then be relaxed so clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield, but support will remain available from NHS volunteers and local councils.
  • People will retain their priority for supermarket delivery slots, and still be able to access help with shopping, medication, phone calls and transport to medical appointments.
  • In addition, those who need to work and cannot do so from home will be able to return to work as long as their workplace is COVID secure, adhering to the guidance available.

 

THE FOLLOWING GUIDANCE REMAINS UNCHANGED

WORK

  • Workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible.
  • All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open, for example this includes food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and nonessential retail which the Government is requiring to remain closed.
  • As soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19). These will ensure the risk of infection is as low as possible, while allowing as many people as possible to resume their livelihoods.
  • It remains the case that anyone who has symptoms, however mild, or is in a household where someone has symptoms, should not leave their house to go to work. Those people should self-isolate, as should those in their households.

ENFORCEMENT

  • The Government is examining more stringent enforcement measures for non-compliance, as it has seen in many other countries.
  • The Government will impose higher fines to reflect the increased risk to others of breaking the rules as people are returning to work and school.

LENDING A HAND

 

SUPPORT PACKAGES

HOMEOWNERS

The Government has announced a series of measures to support homeowners, renters and landlords who may be impacted by Coronavirus:

  • Introducing emergency legislation to protect renters, so that no one gets evicted if they cannot pay their rent
  • Introducing a three-month mortgage holiday for those in difficulty due to Coronavirus – so that people will not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage while they get back on their feet
  • Extending the three-month mortgage holiday to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulty due to Coronavirus

The Government has also reached an agreement with energy suppliers to ensure vulnerable customers who may fall into debt remain supplied with energy while in self isolation, including:

  • ensuring prepayment and pay-as-you go customers remain supplied with energy through challenging times and supporting all customers in financial distress
  • industry agreement signed by all UK domestic suppliers and will come into force immediately.

You can read more about these measures, here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-agrees-measures-with-energy-industry-to-support-vulnerable-people-through-covid-19

 

BUSINESSES

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (now extended to be in place until the end of October)
  • Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
  • A Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs
  • A 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England
  • Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – which as of the 3rd April have seen extended so more small businesses can benefit, and includes a ban on lenders requesting personal guarantees on loans under £250,000
  • A new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
  • The HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

Full details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

And here: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/

Details on the amends to the Interruption Loan Scheme can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-strengthens-support-on-offer-for-business-as-first-government-backed-loans-reach-firms-in-need

The Chancellor has also announced a new scheme for those businesses in need of smaller loans. Businesses can apply for the new Bounce Back Loans up to a maximum of £50,000, or 25% of turnover, with the government paying the interest for the first 12 months.  The loans are now available and the Government will support lending by guaranteeing 100% of the loan.

For more details, please visit this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/small-businesses-boosted-by-bounce-back-loans  

To learn more about how to access the various financial support schemes, please see the link here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to Coronavirus, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

There is a Government Business Support Helpline for any queries: 0300 456 3565

Sevenoaks District Council, Kent County Council, Kent & Medway Growth Hub and other local authorities have also launched a dedicated business support line for Coronavirus-related issues, which is available Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 6pm. If you have any questions please call 03333 602 300.

 

SELF EMPLOYED 

On 26th March 2020, the Chancellor announced a new ‘Self-Employed Income Support Scheme’ to help many of our country’s self-employed workers get the financial support they need.  

The scheme will allow Government to pay self-employed people across the whole UK who have been adversely affected by coronavirus a grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month, for initially three months.

The scheme was then extended on the 29th May. The updates included: 

  • Improved flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time in July.
  • A new taper requiring employers to contribute modestly to furloughed salaries from August.
  • A second and final grant capped at £6,570 in August.

For more information on the announcements, please see here.

The scheme builds on support that had already been made available to the self-employed. Thin includes:

  • Accessing loans through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme. This scheme provides loans of up to £5 million, which will be interest free for twelve months.
  • Supporting people through the welfare system so that nobody is penalised for doing the right thing. Those on contributory ESA will be able to claim from day 1, instead of day 8. And Government have relaxed the requirement for anyone to physically attend a jobcentre – everything can be done by phone or online. 
  • Suspending the minimum income floor for twelve months – meaning self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate that is equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.
  • Deferring income tax self-assessment payments for July until the end of January 2021. 

 

EMPLOYEES

If you are an employee and unable to work due to coronavirus, please refer to this guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions to find out about the support that is available to you, including for those on zero-hour contracts and the self employed: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-guidance-for-employees

As part of a number of measures to support the country during the Coronavirus pandemic, Working Tax Credits payments will be increased automatically by £20 per week from 6 April 2020 until 5 April 2021.

 

TRAVEL

British tourists stranded abroad who want to return to the UK should first check if there are commercial routes available by visiting the airline websites, FCO travel advice pages for the country they are in and local British embassy social media.

If there are no commercial options, they should visit the travel advice pages and sign up to alerts for their location and follow embassy social media and email updates. When special return flights become available, these will be advertised by the embassy and British nationals on Travel Advice Pages and Embassy social media and those who have registered for updates will be contacted via email. British nationals will be asked to register their interest through our booking agents CTM.

Where people are in real need, our consular teams will work with them to consider their options. As a last resort, the Foreign Office will offer an emergency loan

If you are a permanent resident overseas, you should stay and follow the advice of the local authorities in the country you live in.

Do not travel abroad unless it’s essential.

Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays. People should remain in their primary residence.

To change or cancel your travel plans, follow these steps:

  • contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers
  • get in touch with your insurance provider
  • continue to follow the NHS coronavirus guidance

For further travel advice, including if you are already abroad, see advice for travellers on GOV.UK. The FCO also has a dedicated number for urgent queries, +44 207 008 1500.

For further information on international travel, see here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus