The Coronavirus outbreak is arguably the greatest peacetime threat the United Kingdom has faced, and as such requires an equal and appropriate response to provide the necessary support to shield us all from the worst effects of this epidemic.
This is a fast moving and developing situation and I appreciate the concern and worry which this will be causing for all residents and businesses here in Montgomeryshire. While we are going through these uncertain times, I will be issuing a more regular update with relevant information.
Craig Williams MP and I, and our office teams will be focussing our efforts on supporting people with health related matters, business concerns and supporting the most vulnerable people in society.
If you are aware of an elderly of vulnerable person, please do safely pass on our telephone numbers, and let them know that we are happy to support them as much as we can with any concerns they have. Our offices are also aware of organised support being set up at a local level.
Russell George AM – 01686 610887
Craig Williams MP – 01938 552315
I have, and expect, to receive a significant increase in the number of emails, and if I or my team can’t respond quickly, I will take into account the issues which you raise in future updates.
Please feel free to forward this email to others, and if you have received this email from someone else, please do let me know if you want to be added to my distribution list, email me at Russell.George@assembly.wales
I hope you find the update below helpful and hope you stay well.
Russell George AM (Montgomeryshire)
Current Advice to the Public
People who live alone and have symptoms of a high temperature and / or continuous cough - even if it is mild - are asked to stay at home for 7 days from the first symptom and keep away from others, so do not go to the GP, pharmacy or hospital.
If you live with family or others and any one of you have symptoms, you are advised to isolate the whole household for a period of 14 days.
If you have to stay at home follow self-isolation advice on Public Health Wales.
You should only contact 111 if:
· you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
· your condition gets worse
· your symptoms do not get better
You can visit www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/covid19 to check your symptoms and follow the specialist medical advice. Only call NHS 111 if your symptoms worsen.
You can protect older people and those with existing health conditions by avoiding contact. Older people over 70 and those with underlying health conditions are considered to be at a higher risk from the Coronavirus and could be asked to self-isolate in due course though this has not been mandated as yet.
To protect yourself and other people:
- wash your hands with soap and water more often, and do this for at least 20 seconds
- always wash your hands when you get home or into work
- use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
- try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
- If you have been asked to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people follow the self-isolation advice.
More information is available from https://phw.nhs.wales.coronavirus
Links to latest information:
Statement from Powys County Council
Powys County Council has issued this statement today from Council Leader Councillor Rosemarie Harris:
“Powys council buildings remain open we are urging residents who need to contact us to use online facilities or telephone to reduce face-to-face contact to help delay the spread of the virus in the community”
“The Welsh Government decision to bring forward the Easter break and close schools by Friday will have significant impact for residents. From next week, our schools will have a new purpose helping to support those most in need, including health and social care people involved in the immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“We have implemented a home working policy in response to the outbreak to help delay the spread of the virus in the community. This means we have less staff in our buildings to deal with enquiries but are can deal with most by telephone or through the website and using email. Staff are being advised not to make home visits during this difficult time unless essential, but where they are needed, they will contact residents beforehand to ensure no-one is self-isolating and that the visit can go ahead. Our care workers, although under pressure, continue to provide critical home services.
“Currently our waste and recycling collections are operating normally but we ask residents who are self-isolating to follow health guidance and double-bag their personal waste (such as used tissues and wipes) and keep it safely within their house/property for 72 hours before putting in their wheeled bin or purple bags to be collected as normal. We do not anticipate that alternative collection arrangements will be needed.
“Libraries and museums remain open but with the national advice to avoid social gatherings all groups/meetings held in libraries are being cancelled. We are in uncharted waters and as the position changes we will provide updated information to residents through our website, social media channels and local media.
“The Strategic Coordination Group has taken the decision to invoke the Council’s Business Continuity Plans which will see non-critical activity of the Council stepped down over the next few weeks to allow capacity to focus on business critical activities and for the redeployment and training of staff to fulfil business critical roles. Invoking these plans is the start of a process and in the coming days we will be able to advise you of which activities will be stopping and when.
“Please listen to guidance from UK and Welsh Government and follow advice from Public Health Wales and other health officials to help tackle this outbreak. It is likely that council services will be disrupted in future and we ask residents and services to be patient.”
Powys' Schools & Day Centres to close
The Welsh Government has announced that it is to bring forward Easter Holidays and that all schools will close by March 20th at the latest.
From next week, schools will have a new purpose. They will help support those most in need, including people involved in the immediate response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
A further announcement is expected on school examinations.
You can find the latest guidance for educational settings here.
All Powys county council day centres will close from Friday.
Community Services Emergency Response Team
Powys County Council is working alongside Powys Teaching Health Board and PAVO to help organise a community response to COVID-19.
If you are willing to volunteer in your community and support the most vulnerable outside of your working hours, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Important Information and Advice Links
Welsh Government - Latest Information (Coronavirus - COVID-19)
UK Government Wales Office Update
NHS Latest Advice
Powys County Council - Coronavirus
Public Health Wales
Powys Teaching Health Board
Foreign & Commonwealth Office Travel Advice
World Health Organisation Rolling Updates
Advice & Additional Support to protect businesses
Any business can contact the Business Wales telephone helpline on 03000 603000. They are the “one stop shop” who can help on any business issues and will be able to provide the very latest information, and practical advice – from staffing to financial planning as well as supply chain support. I’m aware lines are busy, and raised this matter with the Business Minister today.
The Welsh Government also confirmed that retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will receive 100% business rate relief and pubs with a rateable value of between £51,000 and £100,000 will receive a £5,000 reduction on their bill. This will take place from April (the 2020/21 financial year) for 12 months. As I understand it, businesses will not need to do anything, this will be automatically applied.
I welcome the announcement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, who has released a £350 billion package to help bolster the economy, with the indication that more might be released if the need arises. It remains a terribly uncertain time for families and businesses, but this will go some way to reassure all in the UK that the UK Government is prepared to do whatever it takes to shore up the economy during this economic emergency.
The package of support includes unlimited loans and guarantees to support firms and help them manage cashflows through this period. This is in addition to the £30 billion of support announced in the Budget to deal with the crisis by investing in public services, increasing support for vulnerable people and providing business with tax reliefs and loans.
To ensure that businesses have access to the funds they need, the UK Government are:
- providing support for liquidity amongst large firms, with a major new scheme being launched by the Bank of England to help them bridge Coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
- increasing the amount businesses can borrow through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £1.2 million to £5 million, and ensuring businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as Government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments. This will be available to businesses in Wales via the British Business Bank.
- including new legal powers in the Covid Bill enabling the UK Government to offer whatever further financial support is necessary to support businesses
- providing £20 billion of business rates support and grant funding to help the most-affected firms manage their cashflow through this period by:
- giving all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a 100% business rates holiday for the next 12 months
- increasing grants to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief from £3,000 to £10,000
- providing further £25,000 grants to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000
Business rates and support are devolved areas to the Welsh Parliament and Government. This is a fast moving and developing situation but I welcome the Welsh Government’s commitment that it will ring-fence and pass on every penny of funding which will come to Wales which is aimed to support businesses in Wales.
To date, the Welsh Government has already announced a package of support worth more than £200 million for small businesses to help them during the coronavirus outbreak, making full use of the consequential funding for Wales resulting from announcements in the UK Government’s Budget on 11th March.
We are awaiting more information on how the Welsh Government will pass on the Chancellor’s recent package of support which equates to an extra £1.1 billion.
The Welsh Government has informed me that the Development Bank of Wales has equity and loan funding which it can make available to otherwise healthy small businesses to help them through the cash flow and other challenges which they will face in the next few difficult weeks and months. The Development Bank of Wales will also give a three month capital repayment holiday to the businesses it supports.
With regards to the statutory sick pay, the UK Government is bringing forward legislation to allow small and medium sized businesses and employers to reclaim statutory sick pay due to the Coronavirus.
Business Wales also now has a dedicated coronavirus advice page:
Update from the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital & The Princess Royal Hospital
Visiting restrictions have been put in place at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) and the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford in the wake of national guidance to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Under the new visiting guidelines, the following people are being asked not to visit our hospitals:
- Anyone with a fever or a new persistent cough. People with these symptoms will be asked to return home immediately and self-isolate in line with national guidance
- Children under the age of 16. This also applies to siblings of children who are inpatients and children whose parents are inpatients
- Anyone over the age of 70
- Anyone with existing heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, any condition that weakens their immune system or on any medication that weakens their immune system (e.g. steroids)
Patients who are undergoing testing for possible coronavirus will not be allowed visitors until they are given the all clear. Visitors will not be allowed in X-ray or Radiology.
In addition, wards at both hospitals will have restrictions on visiting times. People will be able to visit their loved ones between 10am and 8pm but will only be able to visit for two hours between those times.
Only one visitor per patient will be allowed to visit at any one time. Families and wards are being encouraged to nominate the same person to visit regularly, in order to minimise the number of visitors to our hospitals.
Visitors are asked to only visit the ward/area where their loved one is being treated and refrain from walking into the canteens, cafes and, especially, other clinical areas if this can be avoided.
Exceptions to visiting restrictions are:
- Births: Only one of two named birthing partners will be allowed at any one time to support the mother through delivery. The named birthing partners can alternate. The two-hour visiting window does not apply. All other maternity areas, including postnatal and antenatal wards will operate one named visitor only. The two-hour visiting window does not apply. Children under the age of 16, including siblings of the new born baby, are not permitted to visit any maternity area.
- Paediatric and Neonatal: One designated carer can visit for the duration of the child’s stay. The two-hour visiting window does not apply. If the designated carer can no longer visit due to illness or caring duties at home, the family of the child is asked to nominate a new designated carer and discuss this with the nurse in charge of the ward.
- End of life care: The two-hour visiting window does not apply. Further discussions will be held on an individual basis.
Certain areas in the hospitals might be cordoned off or closed to visitors for deep cleaning or certain treatments – this does not mean that there is a positively tested coronavirus patient in that area. Visitors close to these areas under restriction/deep clean may also be asked to leave the hospital at short notice.
All visitors will be asked to use alcohol gel to disinfect their hands on entering the hospital, and again on entering the clinical area where their relative is treated. We also ask them to use the gel again when leaving the clinical area and when leaving the hospital.
Visitors who are picking up a discharged patient to take them home, or are providing transport for a patient who is attending as an outpatient or for a short procedure, are asked to stay in their car, to avoid direct contact with other people and pick up their relative wherever this is possible.
Wellbeing & Good Mental Health
With more local people now going into self-isolation, the UK Government recommend online learning as an effective way of maintaining well-being and good mental health.
There are free resources online that could be of use to you or your families. One of these is OpenLearn which is the home of free learning from The Open University.
Their free resources include:
- 900+ short courses ranging from Shakespeare and Schubert, forensic psychology and marketing in the 21st century, democracy and learning through play, beginner through to advanced languages, business and project management, changing cities and global warming, coding and systems modelling, human rights law and young people’s wellbeing, and everything in between;
- thousands of articles, quizzes and interactive games; and
- hundreds of videos and audios
All of their courses enable learners to earn a Statement of Participation and some also allow learners to earn a free digital badge, either of which learners can use to share their achievement with others (although they do not carry any formal credit towards a qualification).
For more information, please visit: https://www.open.edu/openlearn/
They also have Wales-specific content on OpenLearn Wales and OpenLearn Cymru.
These include a range of Everyday Skills courses (to include mathematics (bilingual) and English), as well as courses ranging from Welsh history and identity, through to rural entrepreneurship.
For more information, please visit https://www.open.edu/openlearn/openlearn-wales