Yesterday the Government announced strong social distancing measures in response to the growing spread of the coronavirus, Covid-19 (see full details here). I was in the Commons Chamber for the statement and pressed Ministers for action to support those affected by the measures – highlighting the thousands of people working in bars, cafés and restaurants across Sheffield, as well as our two universities (read my comments here and see an extract below).
I have, of course, been following the coronavirus situation closely, and many constituents have contacted me about it. Many said that they thought that the Government’s initial response did not go far enough, in comparison with other countries, but yesterday the Government clearly changed their course of action and have now advised serious social distancing measures.
Many also wrote about their situations personally; including people who are self-employed and have unstable incomes, others on zero-hours contracts, and those in jobs that can’t work from home. Some are worried that statutory sick pay won’t compensate, and others that they won’t receive it, if they are off work to look after children or relatives or have to isolate because they are in contact with someone with symptoms. Others are concerned about the impact on mortgage and rent payments.
Labour have been pressing the Government on all these points and yesterday, responding to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, our Shadow Health Secretary called for proper support for all affected, saying:
“The poorest, who struggle to pay the rent, those who worry about putting food on the table, and those who have no savings to dip into, will be faced with impossible choices between hardship and health. From sick pay and lost earnings protection, to universal credit changes and rent and mortgage payment deferrals, we need a package of financial support, and we look forward to working with the Secretary of State on that front.”
Jeremy Corbyn followed up on this in a meeting with the Prime Minister last night in which he pressed for support for those affected, including rent deferrals, mortgage holidays, higher statutory sick pay, and income protection for insecure, low-paid and self-employed works.
The Chancellor will today make a further statement on the economic measures being taken as a consequence of yesterday’s announcement, on which we’ll continue to press these points. I’ll be back in Sheffield tomorrow for a meeting with the on local measures and how we can organise community support for those most affected by the social distancing measures.
My office remains open but, to comply with the Government’s advice, will not be receiving visitors. In place of personal appointments, we will deal with all enquiries or problems by phone or email, so do get in touch if we can help.