This week, the Government has announced that the lockdown will be extended for a further three weeks at a minimum. I know it's frustrating, but whatever the weather, we all must remember the social distancing guidelines and respect the measures implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus. By continuing with social distancing, we are supporting our NHS and our key workers who are continuing to work so hard to keep our loved ones safe, our shelves stocked, and our public transport moving.
In order to further support the NHS, I would encourage everyone to download the new NHS app to track and log symptoms of the coronavirus. We’re asking people to take a minute out of each day to track how they feel, even if they’re not experiencing any symptoms. It will help the NHS plan their response across Wales, our scientists to track the coronavirus and highlight high-risk areas, and ultimately help us defeat the spread of the virus.
I’m absolutely thrilled to have been appointed this week as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Jonathan Reynolds MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. This is going to be a particularly important area when we begin to transition out of the lockdown measures and back into ‘real life’. We will need to support the businesses that have had to close, the workers who have been laid-off, and the self-employed who have seen business fall away. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m really looking forward to working with the whole team.
There was some welcome news this week as the UK Government announced that the furlough scheme has been extended to include all employees registered on PAYE until 19 March 2020. This will provide some security for many thousands of employees who have been struggling to get by during this difficult time. While there are still issues with the support offered by the UK Government, and too many people still falling through the gaps, I hope this announcement will come as a relief to many of you who were previously missing out.
I spoke last week about the fantastic work that some of our local businesses are doing, among them the Gower Gin Company who have turned their skills to making hand sanitiser and donating bottles to local NHS hospitals. I’ve been so pleased to see the innovation and generosity of spirit that has galvanised our communities, and to have been able to distribute donations of hand sanitiser among our hard-working volunteers in Gower who are out and about, supporting those who are vulnerable in our community.
Swansea Council have also done a brilliant job supporting our volunteers, putting in place local area coordinators who are there to help people who are isolating because they are at a higher risk of illness. You can find more information about the different local area coordinators and the areas that they cover on the Swansea Council website here.
Unfortunately, there are still a number of unscrupulous employers who are not doing their bit in protecting their employees from the risk of coronavirus. If you are concerned about a lack of PPE, a lack of social distancing in your workplace, or no time or opportunity to regularly wash your hands, you can contact the TUC anonymously here to share your concerns. If employees are unable to work from home, employers should be implementing staggered shifts or changing work patterns, providing the appropriate facilities to allow access to washing facilities and implementing strict cleaning regimes to ensure the safety of all employees. Its up to everyone - including employers - to play their part and help us tackle this challenge.
Tuesday will see Parliament return from the Easter recess - but with some changes to allow for social distancing. Parliamentary authorities have proposed that around 120 MPs dial in via Zoom calls to ask questions - with a further 50 allowed to sit in the chamber. I’m really pleased that we’ll be able to scrutinise the Government while still respecting social distancing. The new measures shouldn’t mean that Ministers can take decisions without scrutiny, so it's great that MPs will still be able to debate and discuss the important issues, from PPE provision to domestic abuse.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page.
If you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com or calling 01792 899025. My office is not open as my staff and I are working from home, but my email and phone are still being monitored and responded to. You may experience a slight delay in receiving a response from us as the demand has increased, but we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Stay home, keep well, and remember – keep washing your hands!