The Coronavirus represents the most serious public health crisis any of us have faced. Getting through this crisis and safeguarding the most vulnerable people in our communities is going to require substantial changes to how we lead our lives in the short and medium-term. That’s why I strongly urge everyone to follow the latest guidance from the NHS and Public Health England in order to contain this disease.
The updated guidance means that no-one should leave their home unless it is essential.
People are permitted to leave their homes on the following conditions:
- For one form of exercise, such as a walk or run, per day. This should be done alone or with others from your household.
- To shop for essentials, as sparingly as possible.
- To go to work, if you are a key worker.
Those who are most at risk from serious underlying health conditions should stay at home for 12 weeks. Those who are can rely on family and friends for essential supplies should do so, but groceries and medicines will be provided by local councils for those without an existing support system nearby.
All non-essential shops (excluding, for example, supermarkets or pharmacies) will be closed and the police will have the power to enforce the above guidelines.
These measures will have a profound impact on our daily lives and cause severe disruption. However, this lockdown is vital if we are to beat Coronavirus and ensure that our NHS has the capacity to protect vulnerable people. I urge everyone to follow the advice and take every measure to contain this disease. Lives depend upon it.
Both as the Mayor of the Sheffield City Region and MP for Barnsley Central, I am working around the clock to co-ordinate the response to Coronavirus in South Yorkshire. I am receiving regular briefings from South Yorkshire’s Local Resilience Forum and I’m in regular contact with our Directors of Public Health, the NHS, Public Health England, South Yorkshire Police and Government Ministers to make sure that Barnsley and South Yorkshire get the resources we need to deal with the virus. I am also working closely with the other Metro Mayors to co-ordinate support and work with national Government.
Coronavirus is already having a profound impact on our economy as workers self-isolate and causing a great deal of economic uncertainty. I welcome the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of support for business and the economy as a vital first step, but this is only be the start of radical and unprecedented action needed to keep South Yorkshire’s economy afloat. Businesses tell me they are already facing a cash flow crisis. The immediate task must be getting support to the frontline as quickly as possible. Hard-working staff and business owners cannot afford delay.
I welcome the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Government will provide the same level of support for self-employed workers as for furloughed employees. This news will be greeted with relief by families across South Yorkshire. However, a three-month wait will be too long for many and I believe that the support for self-employed workers should be introduced as a matter of urgency. I will continue to support SMEs and self-employed workers to ensure they can access support in a timely and equitable manner. Universal Credit claimants have to wait five weeks for their first payment and the offer of an advanced loan will not be enough for those already struggling. If the government wants people to adhere to the rules – that we all agree must be followed – then it must put the economic conditions in place that will allow them to do so. We now urgently need to see the detail of this scheme and the affect it will have on our self-employed workers and their families across South Yorkshire.
As Mayor, I have convened our Local Authorities, economic experts and our Chambers of Commerce to monitor and respond to the impact of Coronavirus on our regional economy. I have committed additional resources to the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub to provide practical support and advice to businesses in South Yorkshire so they can access the measures announced by the Government. You can find out more about the support available from the Growth Hub
The Government have announced that, from Friday 20 March, all schools and colleges in the UK will be closed until further notice except for the children of key workers and those with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). Exams that were scheduled to take place in May will now be cancelled. The Government have committed to providing vouchers for those children eligible for free school meals to ensure they are not disadvantaged by the closure of schools.
There is also the need for individuals to behave responsibly. Since the start of the outbreak I have heard from local people the difficulties of buying essentials at the shops as a panic-buying mentality sets in. Not only is this selfish and wrong in that it denies vulnerable people access to essential supplies; it is counterproductive. We must all shop in a responsibly and make sure that we only buy what we need. I am working with our local supermarkets to ensure that everyone gets the food and essential supplies they need.
This will be an extraordinarily challenging time for our people, our communities and our public services. I have every confidence that our brilliant, hard-working NHS staff will rise to the challenge, but we all need to do what we can to support them. That means supporting our elderly and vulnerable relatives and neighbours who have to self-isolate; and following the official guidelines as they are updated.
I know our communities here in South Yorkshire will look out for each other – as we saw in the floods last November – and that together we will come through this.
By Mayor Dan Jarvis