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HCC update 24th March

Updated: Mar 26

Edition No. 14 24 March 2020

National context Government's da press conference The Heath Secretary, Matt Hancock, held the Government’s daily press conference today. He announced that over 35,000 more staff will be supporting the NHS as medical students and student nurses will move to the frontline. He also announced that next week a new temporary hospital will be opened at the ExCeL Centre in London comprising two wards and holding up to 4,000 patients. Further details included the launch of the NHS Volunteer Responders, seeking 250,000 NHS volunteers. PM address to the nation (Monday 23) In an address to the nation last night (23) the Prime Minister outlined three new measures to slow the spread of coronavirus in an effort to reduce pressure on the NHS. People are now being instructed to stay at home and only leave for very limited purposes as infrequently as possible. The Government has ordered the immediate closure of shops selling non-essential goods, with the measures in place for three weeks and kept under constant review. All gatherings of more than two people, except if the group live together or it is essential for work, in public will be stopped. Social distancing guidance The Government guidance on social distancing has been updated following last night’s (23) announcement, with rules added on staying at home and away from other people. The guidance is available in a range of translated versions. The Cabinet Office have also published full guidance on staying at home and away from others – the guidance sets out the measures which every citizen is required to comply with immediately. Separate advice is available for individuals or households for individuals or households who are isolating, and for the most vulnerable who need to be shielded. Gover communication The Government is texting people across the UK to inform them of the new rules announced by the Prime Minister. The SMS message reads: “GOV.UK CORONAVIRUS ALERT New rules in force now: you must stay at home. More info & exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.” Coronavirus bill The Government has passed all fast-tracked stages of its 329-page emergency bill through the House of Commons. The bill went before the House of Lords today and is expected to be signed into law by the end of Thursday. Amendments to the bill allow for the Communities Secretary to specify the frequency, location and way council meetings must be held, including a provision that meetings can be held without any, or all, of the participants being in the same place. The Government has published a summary of impacts relating to clauses within the coronavirus bill. British travellers The Foreign& Commonwealth Office is strongly advising all British tourists and short stay travellers to return to the UK now while commercial flight options are still available. Education and childcare The Universities Minister has asked higher education providers not to change their offers to students for two weeks to maintain stability. The Secretary of State for Education has published a written statement on summer exams setting out the process to allow students to move onto the next stage in the new academic year. The Government has published guidance on early years and childcare closures. Business The Government has published updated Guidance for employers and businesses. Guidance on the closure of all retailers that sell non-essential goods and other non-essential premises has also been published which supports the Government’s guidance on staying at home. It provides full guidance on the Government’s announcement made yesterday (23) and the list of businesses and premises expected to close. Welfare and council tax support The Department of Work and Pensions is urging claimants to use online services for help with their benefit claim due to the rise in new claims. In addition, the Secretary of State has also today announced that reviews and reassessments for disability benefits are being suspended for the next three months. The Local Government Secretary has confirmed the £500 million Hardship Fund will provide support, including council tax relief, in 2020 to 2021 to those who need it most. Local context Closure of Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) Following the Prime Minister’s address yesterday evening (23) it has been agreed with Veolia to close all the HWRCs until further notice. The County Council has posted updates on its website and through social media outlets. Care homes temporarily stopping visits The County Council has taken the decision to temporarily stop all but emergency visits to its care homes to ensure that vulnerable individuals are kept safe from the spread of the virus. Staff will support residents to stay in touch with their families and loved ones via phone calls, video calls, instant messaging or letters. Trading standards The County Council’s Trading Standards team is warning residents to be extra vigilant to the risk of falling victim to scams and rogue traders and has published a list of known coronavirus related scams. Volunteering and locality hubs In order to co-ordinate local support for vulnerable residents, the County Council is working closely with local authority partners, as well as the community and voluntary sector, to set up a central hub which will co-ordinate the offers of help coming in, and match those to requests from local people for assistance. A press release, outlining specific details, is to be issued shortly. Registration services In line with government guidance, weddings have now been suspended for a period of three weeks, at which point the measure will be reviewed. Couples who are due to have their marriage or civil partnership ceremonies within the next 12 weeks will be contacted within seven working days to re-book beyond August 2020. Additional links