Yet another week has passed in lockdown and I would like to thank you for your continued help and assistance by staying home, protecting the NHS and saving lives.
The South West has significantly lower numbers of COVID-19, which is, of course, welcome, but there is absolutely no room for complacency. We are still several weeks behind the rest of the country and we must remain vigilant in our approach to ensuring that the virus does not spread.
Therefore, we all must continue to follow the guidelines and rules and remain indoors. It is having a positive impact and helping ensure that our NHS is fully prepared for any potential surge.
There are ongoing discussions on a local and national level about how we end this lockdown, but we must hold that conversation in collaboration with other parts of the UK. We must be in lockstep with regards to our approach.
I am, of course, keen to see the end of the lockdown, provided it is safe to do so, and I am feeding into the debate on how this might be achieved. Local MPs are meeting (virtually) regularly to discuss this and to explore what form the economic recovery will take.
Please note there is a huge amount of support available from the government for businesses. You can find the full details here.
It is important to be aware that these measures do not cover 100% of businesses and the self-employed. I am fully aware of the fact that further measures are needed. At the time of writing there are strong indicators that the government is preparing to update the Covid-19 Business Interruption Loans (CBILs) loan and provide a 100% guarantee on loans issue up to c£25k. This would be very welcome.
Over the last six weeks I have been pushing for:
· More businesses to be included within the business grant scheme (as well as to remove those who might be exploiting it)
· Inclusion for those businesses above the £51k rateable value
· A new financial support package for the hospitality sector
· Support scheme for our farmers
There is a groundswell of support for the above measures and I will continue to work with colleagues across the South West and the country to see that we continually develop measures to help those at this difficult time.
MPs from across Devon have written to the banks to ask for greater clarity around their issuing of CBILs and to ensure they are behaving responsibly.
If you are a business that is having a tough time applying for these CBILs then please let me know (email@example.com) so I can inform the Treasury Select Committee who will be cross-examining the banks.
As ever there has been significant attention focussed around PPE and shortages. At the time of writing and after conversations with local doctors, nurses and care home workers there appears to be comprehensive coverage across South Hams and Torbay.
That said, there is no room for complacency, and there have been some concerns around the supply of gowns, aprons and facemasks which need to be addressed.
Any one person or business facing shortages must use the following links:
· Purchase through the market – Applegate Supplies https://www.applegate.co.uk/suppliers/ppe-industrial-supplies-3166307
· Order through National Supply Disruption Resource - https://www.supplychain.nhs.uk/covid19/ordering/
· Contact Devon Clinical Commission Group –
· Contact Devon County Council
I remain in contact with local NHS health trust, CCGs and GP surgeries to be able to continually review the situation.
While trials have begun for a vaccine in Oxford, we know that this will take some time. The importance of testing those who show symptoms will allow us to combat the spread of this virus in a significant manner.
I am pleased that after a great deal of local pressure across South Devon that there are plans for a new testing site in Torbay. This testing site will be for critical workers and their families. Further details will be announced here.
Farming and Fishing
Last week’s announcement regarding the support measures available for the fishing sector is welcome indeed. You can find full details here.
Of course, the farming sector is in desperate need and I am sure we have all be shocked to see videos of milk being poured down the drains. There have been several calls to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on this issue and there is likely to be a support package announced in due course.
You will find further details here. [insert link]
A final few words
The challenge ahead remains great and it is becoming increasingly harder and more frustrating as the days and weeks pass. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and our fantastic NHS, scientists, critical workers, voluntary groups are all helping us get through this difficult time.
My team and I remain available to help in any way we can and you can find my details at the bottom of this update.
Best wishes and stay safe,