Coronavirus Statement

18th March 2020

George Freeman MP

All of us now face truly unprecedented times. There has not been a global pandemic like this within living memory.

Our entire country is effectively on a civil emergency war-footing, as is much of the rest of the world. 

This is not permanent. It will pass. But to be able to minimise the death, suffering and disruption we must all change the way we live and work. 

—-

This will be a test of our whole nation: of our Government, our democracy, our economy, our society, community and our resilience.

The Covid19 virus is new - so public health scientists are learning about it as it unfolds. But we do know that it is characterised by:

  • High rate of transmission between people in close proximity or through contact with infected surfaces
  • Of those infected the vast majority can expect to make a full recovery after mild - severe flu symptoms
  • For those with underlying respiratory / immune / other serious health conditions there may be more complex breathing problems requiring clinical respiratory intervention
  • Mortality rate of c 2% heavily concentrated in the most vulnerable elderly with pre-existing respiratory conditions. 

As the virus spreads and the number of daily deaths and critical illnesses rises exponentially to a forecast peak in May (see latest modelling forecast below), we will need new levels of leadership at every level: from No10 to the village hall.

Critical care beds occupied per 100,000 of population

The Government has moved to put in place the emergency measures at national level that we need:

  • Emergency public health controls
  • £330 billion economic support package
  • Daily Cobra emergency meetings
  • Daily State Of The Nation updates and briefings
  • Emergency powers
  • A national Network of Local Resilience Forums to co-ordinate the local civil and public service response

As the rate of infection rises over the coming weeks the lived experience of this crisis will dramatically shift from the current state of preparation, prevention and anticipation to a visible crisis of disease, serious illness and premature death of loved ones in our communities here in Norfolk.

All of us can make a real difference in helping to avoid suffering and premature death by following the guidance to:

  • Avoid contact if proximity to strangers <2m
  • Wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds
  • Self-isolate at home if you are in a high risk group
  • Work from home
  • Avoid pubs / clubs / communal events and venues

This is not a test or a drill.

Many lives are at stake and, as the Health Secretary has said, Covid 19 is a silent killer.

The range of warnings the Prime Minister gave on Monday around social distancing are necessary and must be implemented now. Some have said they will defy any warnings and continue their lives as normal. Sadly, that is not bravery but foolishness. The bravest and most honourable thing any of us can do now is restrict contact with others and try and contain the spread of this disease.

It is vital that we all continue to follow the advice of the NHS and Government. As the pandemic develops, the advice will be constantly updated. It is crucial that everyone is aware of the latest and most up-to-date medical advice.

For all of the relevant information and links, visit my webpage here

This pandemic, however, poses some particular challenges for a rural area like ours.

Isolation in rural areas.

As a rural area spread between so many towns and villages, isolation for the elderly and vulnerable is already a challenge.  We must do all we can to make sure that the vulnerable elderly and at risk groups in isolation are not - and do not feel - abandoned or further marginalised.

Avoiding infectious contact doesn’t mean we have to avoid all contact: quite the opposite. All of us need to take steps to make an extra effort to stay in contact with and keep an eye out for neighbours and the vulnerable in our communities.

Norfolk is built around our sense of community. We will need it in the coming months more than ever.

Across the 114 villages and 5 towns of Mid Norfolk we are already seeing some brilliant community initiatives:

Villages and neighbourhoods setting up Community Covid Action Teams to help the vulnerable with shopping and supplies

Neighbourhood Knocks:  neighbours taking the time to telephone, put a card through the letterbox or knocking on their neighbours doors to say hello and check on each other

Digital ‘Virtual Village” initiatives.... Neighbourhood WhatsApp Groups .... Facebook Groups .... Facetime Live Phone Ins......

With 90% 4G coverage across Mid Norfolk - this is a big opportunity to embrace the power of digital community to support each other.  But not everyone has digital connectivity and many of the most vulnerable may not be able to use it.

Impact on local businesses and employees

The epidemic and the public health measures to tackle it will have a devastating impact on local businesses: pubs, shops, factories, suppliers and self-employed people in ancillary and secondary supply chains.

Many people will see their businesses and incomes hit hard.

That’s why the Government has moved fast to announce an unprecedented £330 billion Covid Bailout package to help make sure people do not lose their jobs, livelihoods and businesses as a result. The virus will pass.  We need to be able to pick up and restore our economy quickly.

We bailed out the banks when the sub-prime credit crunch crisis brought the economy to the brink.

Now it is only right that we do all we can for the myriad of small businesses and self-employed who face a potentially catastrophic economic impact.

The Chancellor and Prime Minister have made clear that we will “do whatever it takes” to minimise disruption and avoid lasting damage to families, communities and our economy and society.

 —

Locally here in Norfolk our councils, NHS, emergency services and civil emergency planners have been hard at work establishing the Norfolk Resilience Forum which will co-ordinate all the local activity.

Officials and elected councillors are all working flat out to ensure the necessary arrangements are in place.

It will be vital that the Norfolk Covid Response Plan is properly and clearly communicated and we are working on a plan for ensuring that from County Hall to the village hall everyone is clear what is happening.

As your Member of Parliament I have this week instigated my own comprehensive Covid19 MP Response Plan - the key elements of which are:

  • Whilst following the Government guidance on isolation and home working I will not be shutting down my constituency operation: in fact quite the opposite. I will be concentrating all my efforts in the coming weeks and months on 3 key roles for you:
    • Helping constituents access the advice and help you may need
    • Making sure Government and all agencies are aware of the reality and challenges in our area
    • Actively helping local public service leaders.

My 3 staff cannot meet with people face-to-face at the Constituency Office and will all be working remotely as a result. We will endeavour to deal with all emails, letters, calls and requests for help in the usual way: triaging to prioritise the most urgent.

The team is working tirelessly to answer emails and calls, but please appreciate demand is high. Please bear with us as we try to adapt to this and continue to serve you.  This is new ground for all of us.

(NB. I will no longer reply to party political correspondence: this is no time for partisan politics - but a time to pull together.)

I will be working flat-out during this period to ensure:

  • Everyone at risk knows where to get advice
  • Everyone facing economic hardship knows how to get the help they can from the Government
  • Our local NHS, care, emergency and other public services have the support they need, and
  • No one in our community is forgotten.

That is my pledge and my promise. 

Together, we will get through this. 

It will pass.

But it is going to be the biggest national, civil, economic and societal challenge any of our generation have ever faced.

This is a global emergency - but as ever in the end the reality on the ground will be experienced locally here in Mid Norfolk.

By each of us doing what we can, working together, looking out for each other, and living and working in the public interest we can all make a real difference: avoiding unnecessary suffering, death and lasting damage.

Thank you to all the heroes and heroines in our public services and especially our NHS and Care sectors who will be on the frontline - literally putting their lives at risk for the rest of us.

Let us all come together and make this a moment that we re-commit to the power of community and the public interest.

Yours,

George

 

 

 

Coronavirus - COVID-19

Image by Olga Lionart from Pixabay

For the latest Government advice on the Coronavirus pandemic visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus

For the latest medical advice visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

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George Freeman: New technology can save the NHS

21st September 2015 There is a truth in our society that we can no longer ignore. With a rapidly ageing population, the UK faces a new demographic reality. | ConservativeHome



George Freeman: How technology will transform care and debate about our NHS

18th January 2015 The technological revolutions which have transformed so much of our economy and society are about to transform healthcare. | ConservativeHome


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