Many of you are understandably concerned about the ongoing situation with the coronavirus which is affecting all of us in many different ways. The situation is rapidly evolving and many people have emailed me with questions and views on how the situation should be handled. As the Health Secretary has said, we must do everything in our power to protect lives.
The Government continues to work hard to protect the public and minimise the effects of the virus. In deciding what action to take the Government is taking advice from medical and scientific experts. The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty is an epidemiologist and thus well placed to advise in the current situation. The open letter from academics to the Government sent this weekend is from people specialising in a range of disciplines but, as I understand it, there are no leading experts in the science of the spread of diseases in the list.
Some have written to me to ask why we are only testing people who have been hospitalised. This is not true. The NHS 111 service provides a triage system so that people who may have the virus or may have come into contact with it are tested. The Health Secretary has said that we have carried out some of the highest number of tests in Europe, our surveillance testing is among the most sophisticated in the world and the UK’s plans for the rapid response to and mitigation of the spread of an epidemic are ranked among the highest by the Global Health Security Index.
As you will know, based on the scientific evidence, the Government has taken the decision to move to the delay phase of its response. Advice for the public is to stay at home for seven days if they have a new persistent cough or high temperature. It is likely that further announcements on restrictions of movement will come forward very soon.
The Government is providing regular updates as the situation evolves. These are all public and MPs do not have information that is not also in the public domain. However if you are looking for specific information which you cannot find my team will be happy to assist as best they are able. You can sign up for email updates as new announcements are made at this link.
One of the most important things is that we look after each other. This includes being aware of the needs of others around us, especially those who are at most risk. We must also ensure that we have the official information and advice. Fake news can be very harmful. Please also be sensible when shopping. If you are able to have food in stock for a few days should you need to stay at home then this is pragmatic, but please do not stockpile food and other items. Whilst those who can afford to fill their cupboards do so, they add to the vulnerability of those who are unable to shop other than little and often. This is a time for testing our shared compassion.
The ‘stay at home’ guidance is the latest advice from Government aimed at delaying the spread of the virus. This can be found on the NHS website along with other advice including symptoms and action to take www.nhs.uk/coronavirus
All the government advice and guidance to the public, businesses, and other sectors is available via the gov.uk online hub.
Specific advice for a range of settings including travel advice, advice on educational settings, guidance for employers, employees, self-employed people, those in health and care sector is also available at the following link. This is updated as appropriate: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response