The week started off with confusion for many as on Sunday night the Prime Minister announced a relaxing of the lockdown restrictions and the hope that people could soon return to work - but these changes only apply to England. In Wales, the conditions of the lockdown have not changed. We are still asked to only leave our homes for exercise once a day, to go shopping for the essentials, or for a medical need. Otherwise, please stay at home to help protect yourselves and others from this horrible virus. It is inevitable there will be some confusion with the four home nations now following slightly different paths, but, as always, the Welsh Government has taken a decision in the best interests of the people in Wales. We must continue to respect the guidance in Wales to support our Welsh NHS and all of our key workers who are all doing an incredible job.
It was International Nurses Day this Tuesday which this year marked the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. The day was a fantastic opportunity to say a huge thank you to all the nursing staff up and down the country for their remarkable contribution to the lives of millions of people, but especially now during the coronavirus pandemic. I want to say my own special thanks for the hard work that you are all doing in extremely difficult circumstances.
It was reassuring to hear this week that the Chancellor has extended his furlough scheme by four months until the end of October. Employees on this scheme will be paid 80% of their wages up to £2,500 each month until then, although if the situation with lockdown changes, and people are able to go back to work, then the UK Government are planning to look again at the scheme in August to see whether they can share the cost of employees’ wages with employers. We must ensure that this scheme is in place as long as is necessary to support people and to help employers to protect jobs so that when it is safe to do so, there is employment for people to return to.
For pregnant women, the coronavirus has turned what should have been an incredibly exciting and happy time into one of concern and worry. And in addition to the worry of the impact of the virus on themselves and their baby, many have had the added, unnecessary stress of the reaction of their employer to the pandemic. Some pregnant women have been told - incorrectly - that they either had to take unpaid leave or to go on sick leave. The Equality and Human Rights Commission have reminded organisations across the UK that they may face discrimination claims if they treat pregnant women unfairly during this crisis. They also have provided guidance to employers on their legal obligations which can be found on their website here.
We are currently in week eight of the lockdown and it has been difficult for all of us – the worries about work, not being able to see family and friends, and of course, concerns for the health of our loved ones. But there are those for whom this is an even more stressful time - and that includes those who rely on food banks to feed themselves and their families. Our food banks need our help more than ever as they struggle to cope with growing demand and a reduction in donations. Please, continue to make donations at your local supermarket – particularly of toiletries, home cleaning products, snacks and treats, and tinned meat and fish. Thank you to everyone who is working so hard to make sure that families are still able to put food on the table in these difficult times.
The impact of the coronavirus is likely to be felt for a long time to come across all parts of society, even once lockdown is lifted. We heard this week that until a vaccine is developed, it is likely that once rugby begins to be played again, it will do so behind closed doors and certainly without the crowds that our clubs and regions rely on to generate funds. The Welsh Rugby Union is expected to lose millions of pounds of income due to the coronavirus pandemic and that loss of income will have a knock on effect further down the chain. We must find a way to support our clubs until a vaccine is freely available – the game we love gives us so much, from the enjoyment in watching a match, to the motivation for youngsters to take up the sport and keep fit, to the lifelong friendships we make through the sport. I’d be very happy to hear from clubs across Gower about the issues they are facing at this time and the best way to tackle them. Please do get in touch!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01792 899025. My office is not open, 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!