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 email@example.com, or by calling us on 020 7219 4964.
LATEST HEALTH GUIDANCE (as of 19th October):
On the 12th October, the Prime Minister made a statement to the House of Commons on how government have standardised their local rules by introducing a three-tiered system of Local COVID Alert Levels in England:
- Medium alert level: This level covers Sevenoaks and includes the Rule of Six restrictions (indoor and out), the closure of hospitality at 10pm, and office workers working from home where they can. More details are also noted below.
- High alert level: This level aims to reduce household to household transmission by preventing all mixing between different households or support bubbles indoors. In these areas the Rule of Six will continue to apply outdoors, in public spaces as well as private gardens. Areas already subject to local restrictions will automatically move into the “high” alert level.
- Very high level: This level will apply where transmission rates are rising most rapidly and where the NHS would soon be under intolerable pressure without further restrictions. The Government will set a baseline, prohibiting interactions beyond household groups in further settings. This will include outdoor premises which are ticketed, as well as private gardens and outdoor premises of hospitality setting. People will still be able to meet under the Rule of Six in public outdoor space, such as parks. Wedding receptions must sadly no longer take place and pubs and bars close unless they are serving alcohol drinks with substantial sit-down meals. People will also be asked to avoid non-essential travel.
To see a full list of local COVID alert levels by area please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/full-list-of-local-covid-alert-levels-by-area?priority-taxon=774cee22-d896-44c1-a611-e3109cce8eae
Government have now launched a postcode search function on gov.uk, and the NHS COVID-19 app which shows the local COVID alert level you are in. If you would like to use this please visit: https://www.gov.uk/find-coronavirus-local-restrictions?priority-taxon=774cee22-d896-44c1-a611-e3109cce8eae
At present Sevenoaks in in the medium alert level and therefore must follow the following guidance:
- HANDS - Wash your hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds
- FACE - Cover your face in enclosed spaces, especially where social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet
- SPACE - Stay 2 metres apart where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place.
Meeting family and friends
When seeing friends and family you do not live with (or who are not part of your support bubble), you must not meet in a group of more than 6, indoors or outdoors. In England, this limit of 6 includes children of any age. A support bubble is where a household with one adult joins with another household. Households in that support bubble can still visit each other, stay overnight and visit public places together.
Meeting in larger groups is against the law apart from specific exceptions where people from different households can gather in groups larger than 6 people. The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups. This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).
You can be fined £200 for the first offence, doubling for each further offence up to a maximum of £6,400. If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.
When meeting friends and family you should also:
- follow social distancing rules when you meet up
- limit how many different people in total you see socially over any short period of time
- meet people outdoors where practical: this is safer because fresh air provides better ventilation
- Exceptions where people from different households can gather in groups larger than 6 people. These include:
- in a legally permitted support bubble
- for work, volunteering to provide voluntary or charitable services (see guidance on working safely in other people’s homes)
- for registered childcare, education or training
- to allow contact between birth parents and children in care
- for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents or guardians
- for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
- for supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care (before and after school childcare), youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups
- for birth partners
- to see someone who is dying
- to provide emergency assistance, and to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm
- to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service
- to provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable
- to facilitate a house move
- for a wedding or equivalent ceremony and wedding receptions, where the organiser has carried out a risk assessment and taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the virus – up to a maximum of 15 people
- for a funeral, up to a maximum of 30 people; wakes and other commemorative events are permitted with up to 15 people present
- for elite sportspeople and their coaches if necessary for competition and training, as well as parents or guardians if they are a child
- for outdoor exercise and dance classes, organised outdoor sport and licensed outdoor physical activity
- for indoor organised sport for disabled people, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s
- support groups of up to 15 participants – formally organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support
- protests, if organised in compliance with COVID-secure guidance
- Other activities, such as organised indoor sport, including indoor exercise classes and other activity groups, can happen in larger numbers, provided that participants are in separate groups of up to 6 people, which do not mix. Where it is likely that groups will mix, these activities must not go ahead.
- Where a group includes someone covered by such an exception (for example, someone who is working), they are not generally counted as part of the gatherings limit. This means, for example, a tradesperson can go into a household without breaching the limit, if they are there for work.
Protecting people more at risk from coronavirus
If you have any of the following health conditions, you may be clinically vulnerable, meaning you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. If you are clinically vulnerable you:
- can go outside as much as you like but you should still try to keep your overall social interactions low
- can visit businesses, such as supermarkets, pubs and shops, whilst keeping 2 metres away from others wherever possible or 1 metre plus other precautions
- should continue to wash your hands carefully and more frequently than usual and maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home or workspace
Clinically vulnerable people are those who are:
- aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
- under 70 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)
- pregnant women
There is a further group of people who are defined, also on medical grounds, as clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus – that is, people with specific serious health conditions. At each local COVID alert level, there is additional advice that clinically extremely vulnerable people must follow.
- Customers in private hire vehicles and taxis must wear face coverings (from 23 September).
- Customers in hospitality venues must wear face coverings, except when seated at a table to eat or drink. Staff in hospitality and retail will now also be required to wear face coverings (from 24 September).
- People who are already exempt from the existing face covering obligations, such as because of an underlying health condition, will continue to be exempt from these new obligations.
- Guidance stating that face coverings and visors should be worn in close contact services will now become law (from 24 September).
- Staff working on public transport and taxi drivers will continue to be advised to wear face coverings.
- Face coverings continue to be mandatory on public transport, NHS settings, and shops and supermarkets.
- Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.
- The liability for wearing a face covering lies with the individual.
- Should an individual without an exemption refuse to wear a face covering, a shop can refuse them entry and can call the police if people refuse to comply, the police have the formal enforcement powers and can issue a fine of £200.
- Guidance for those making face coverings at home can be viewed here.
- A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers; these should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace such as health and care workers and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards.
Working from home
- To help contain the virus, office workers who can work effectively from home should do so over the winter.
- Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so.
- Public sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work where necessary.
- Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.
- Businesses selling food or drink (including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants), social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls, must be closed between 10pm and 5am. This will include takeaways, but delivery services can continue after 10pm (from 24 September).
- In licensed premises, food and drink must be ordered from, and served at, a table.
- Customers must eat and drink at a table in any premises selling food and drink to consume indoors, on site (from 24 September).
- Businesses will need to display the official NHS QR code posters so that customers can ‘check-in’ at different premises using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details once the app is rolled out nationally (from 24 September).
- Businesses and organisations will face stricter rules to make their premises COVID Secure (from 28 September):
- A wider range of leisure and entertainment venues, services provided in community centres, and close contact services will be subject to the COVID-19 Secure requirements in law and fines of up to £10,000 for repeated breaches.
- Employers must not knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work.
- Businesses must remind people to wear face coverings where mandated.
On Thursday 24 September, the Chancellor announced our Winter Economy Plan – the next phase of the Government’s planned economic response. This included:
Job Support Scheme
- The company will continue to pay its employee for time worked, but the burden of hours not worked will be shared equally between the employee, employer and government, a third each way.
- The Scheme is focused on viable jobs, so employees need to be working at least a 33% of the time, and this % will move up over time.
- The Scheme will open from 1 November and run for six months until the end of April 2021.
- All businesses, not just those who used the furlough scheme, will be eligible.
- Larger businesses (not SMEs) will only be eligible if their revenue has declined.
- There will be an expectation that large companies using the scheme will be constrained in their ability to make dividend payments or capital distributions to shareholders, and employees will not be able to be made redundant or given notice whilst on the scheme.
- Employers will be able to use the Job Support Scheme as well as claim the Jobs Retention Bonus.
For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/job-support-scheme
- To ensure parity between employees and self-employed, the Government will provide a further grant for self-employed small businesses who used the existing SEISS scheme. Eligibility criteria will be refined to check whether the self-employed trader is still viable and trading and is suffering lower revenues as a result of coronavirus. The grant will match the average grant of the Job Support Scheme, and represent 20% of three-month earnings, for November to January.
For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/self-employment-income-support-scheme-seiss-grant-extension
‘Pay As You Grow’ scheme
- The Pay As You Grow scheme will allow business greater flexibility to repay loans
- All borrowers will now have the option to repay their Bounce Back Loans (BBLs) over a longer time period by extending the term of BBLs to ten years – this will reduce their average monthly repayments by almost half.
- Businesses will also be able to move to interest-only repayments for periods of up to six months – or to pause repayments entirely for the same period.
- It will have no impact on a business’s credit rating if they take up any of those options.
- CBILS lenders can also extend their loans to ten years as well by extending our Government guarantee, providing more flexibility and support for businesses.
Loan deadline extension
- The Government have extending the deadline for new applications until the end of November for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the Future Fund.
- Along with the Bounce Back Loans, this means all four loan schemes will now expire at the end of November.
- Government are working with businesses and lenders to introduce a new loan guarantee scheme from January 2021.
- Government are extending the temporary 5 per cent rate of VAT until the end of March 2021.
- They will also be launching a new scheme to allow businesses who want extra time to pay back the VAT they owe in smaller equal monthly payments, interest-free, until the end of March 2022.
- Government has upgraded the Time to Pay service so that all 11 million self-assessment taxpayers will be able to create a 12-month payment arrangement for up to £30,000 each, and extended under the end of January 2022.
WHAT BUSINESS ARE ABLE TO REOPEN?
Many businesses and venues are now permitted to reopen and are expected to follow COVID-19 Secure guidelines, including:
- hotels, hostels, bed and breakfast accommodation, holiday apartments or homes, cottages or bungalows, campsites, caravan parks or boarding houses
- places of worship
- community centres
- restaurants, cafes, workplace canteens, bars, pubs that are self-contained and can be accessed from the outside
- hair salons and barbers, including mobile businesses
- theatres and concert halls
- funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities such as go-karting, laser tag and paintballing
- outdoor gyms and playgrounds
- museums and galleries
- bingo halls
- outdoor skating rinks
- amusement arcades and other entertainment centres, such as snooker halls
- model villages
- social clubs
- indoor attractions at aquariums, zoos, safari parks, farms, wildlife centres and any place where animals are exhibited to the public as an attraction
- indoor and outdoor areas of visitor attractions including, gardens, heritage sites, film studios and landmarks
- outdoor swimming pools
- outdoor water parks
- nail bars and salons
- tanning booths and salons
- spas, and beauty salons
- massage parlours
- tattoo parlours
- body piercing services
- bowling, skating rinks and casinos will be
- Close contact services such as eyebrow threading or make-up application,
- Indoor performances to a live audience, subject to the success of pilots;
- Small wedding receptions - sit-down meals for no more than 30 people, subject to COVID-19 Secure guidelines;
High risk activities and settings such as nightclubs are to remain shut, as Government have assessed that they cannot yet be made sufficiently COVID-19 Secure. See a full list of businesses that will need to remain closed.
All children and young people, in all year groups, have now returned to school and college full time.
The prevalence of coronavirus (COVID-19) has decreased since schools and colleges restricted their opening to most pupils in March. The NHS Test and Trace system is up and running and we understand more about the measures that need to be in place to create safer environments.
The scientific evidence shows that coronavirus (COVID-19) presents a much lower risk to children than adults of becoming severely ill. There is no evidence that children transmit the disease any more than adults. However, there will still be risks while coronavirus (COVID-19) remains in the community.
To manage the risks, things will be a bit different in the new term. We have asked nurseries, childminders, schools and colleges to put in place a range of protective measures to help reduce the risks.
Your child’s nursery, childminder, school or college will be able to give you more information about the changes they have made.
Local authorities and schools have a range of legal powers to enforce attendance if a child or young person misses school without a valid reason.
There is not a corresponding legal duty for post-16 education but if a young person fails to attend, their college may believe they have left the course.
If you have concerns about your child returning to school or college because you consider they may have other risk factors, you should discuss these with your school or college. They should be able to explain ways they are changing things to reduce risks. There are resources to support you with these conversations, including this leaflet on returning to school after a period of absence.
Anybody may use public transport, however, please remember to follow the social distancing guidelines, and use alternatives (such as walking and cycling) where possible.
You should not travel at all if you are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms, are self-isolating as a result of coronavirus symptoms or sharing a household or support bubble with somebody with symptoms, are clinically extremely vulnerable and cannot shield during your journey or have been advised by the NHS test and trace service that you should self-isolate.
It is a legal requirement to wear a face covering on public transport. This is helping to ensure that transport is as safe as possible as more people begin to return to work and go shopping. Transport operators will enforce this requirement, and the police can also do so. This will mean you can be refused travel if you don’t comply and could be fined. You should also be prepared to remove your face covering if asked to do so by police officers and staff for the purposes of identification.
Coronavirus regulations mean that you must self-isolate for 14 days when you arrive in the UK.
This applies to UK residents and visitors to the UK.
You may not have to self-isolate when you arrive in England, if you are travelling from one of the countries, territories or regions listed. That is because these are either:
- covered by the travel corridor exemption
- within the common travel area - Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man
- British overseas territories
You will need to self-isolate if you visited or made a transit stop in a country or territory that is not on the travel corridor list in the 14 days before you arrive in England.
This applies to all travel to England, by train, ferry, coach, air or any other route.
Travellers should always check the latest FCO travel advice. Travel advice includes information on any health measures in place for visitors to the country or territory. These can include a requirement to self-isolate, quarantine, or undergo testing for COVID-19, or even restrictions on entry.
If the country you are visiting is not on the above list, when you arrive in the UK, you will not be allowed to leave the place you’re staying for the first 14 days you’re in the UK (known as ‘self-isolating’). This is because it can take up to 14 days for coronavirus symptoms to appear. You should follow separate advice if you will self-isolate in:
Before you travel, you should provide your journey, contact details and the address where you will self-isolate. You will be able to complete the public health passenger locator form 48 hours before you arrive. You must present these details on your arrival in England.
You may be refused permission to enter the UK (if you are not a British citizen), or fined if you do not to provide your contact details or do not self-isolate when you arrive in the UK.
In England, if you do not self-isolate, you can be fined £1,000. If you do not provide an accurate contact detail declaration – or do not update your contact detail form in the limited circumstances where you need to move to another place to self-isolate – you can be fined up to £3,200.
Latest Government guidance on the COVID-19 response can be found in in full 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/
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.