Coronavirus – guidance and advice

I’ve been contacted by constituents who are, understandably, concerned about the impact of Coronavirus on them and their families.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presents unprecedented challenges for our public health and our economy at an individual, local, national, and international level.

Below, I’ve compiled some key information which may be helpful during this period of uncertainty.

NHS guidelines

The NHS has a plan to cope with the spread of the virus and has some essential advice for people on its website, here.

If you believe you may have contracted Coronavirus, you can check your symptoms via NHS 111’s online symptom checker, here.

Anyone presenting symptoms of Coronavirus – a persistent dry cough and fever – must self-isolate for at least 7 days, see latest info here. Anyone they live with must self-isolate for 14 days. You can register for a Coronavirus test here.

The NHS is encouraging people who suspect they have or have had Coronavirus to fill out this survey, to help them better understand the virus.

Anyone in the high risk category – which includes people over 70, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions, are advised to stay at home as much as possible.

Everyone is encouraged to wash their hands regularly with soap and water. For a guide on best practice for washing hands, see here.I

Pharmacies have issued advice for people needing prescriptions. They ask that, where possible, you order your regular prescription online a week before you need it, that you only go to collect it once you’ve been notified that it’s ready and, send someone else to collect it for you if you should be self-isolating as per the official guidance.

The Co-op Health app offers free delivery of repeat prescriptions. You register and can pay online and get them delivered to your door. See here.

Government response

The UK Government has an online Coronavirus hub, here. full of information and latest updates.

You are asked to stay at home as much as possible, work from home if you can, limit contact with other people and wash your hands regularly.

You can spend time outdoors and meet in groups of up to six, while staying two metres apart (see the government guidelines on social distancing here). The Government is regularly reviewing and updating the guidance. More info on what you can and can’t do, here.

People who are clinically vulnerable should have received a letter telling them they’re in the shielding group, or have been told by their GP that they are. Until 1 June, it meant that you should not have been leaving your house with extra support available for help with food and collecting prescriptions. The government has now said that you can leave your house while taking extra measures to ensure social distancing, see here.

There is a WhatsApp service that you can use to get the latest guidance on Coronavirus sent directly to your phone. Simply add GOV.UK‘s number to your contacts: 07860 064422 and send “Hi” as a message to the number on WhatsApp.

It is vital that we all play our part in helping to prevent the spread of this virus. Staying home as much as possible and adhering to social distancing guidelines when out is crucial for restricting the spread of Coronavirus.
The more people you have interactions with, the more chance the virus has to spread.

Avon and Somerset Police is working really hard to help enforce these restrictions and have already issued fines to people in breach of these. If you want to report someone you believe to be in breach of these public health regulations, you can do so online here.

Travel advice

The Government has advised against non-essential travel. People should be staying at home as much as they can (see guidance above) and avoiding the use of public transport – walking or cycling if possible.

Local public transport operators (buses and trains) are running reduced services with extra measures in place to help tackle the spread of Coronavirus. Please see here for the latest travel updates.

The Government has announced a temporary 6 month MOT exemption to enable vital services to continue, frontline workers to get to work, and people to get essential food and medicine. All cars, vans and motorcycles which usually would require an MOT test will be exempted from needing a test for an extra 6 months. More info, here.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all non-essential international travel. If you are currently overseas on holiday or seeking to return from a period abroad, you are advised to contact your airline or travel company. You are also able to contact the FCO by calling (0)207 008 1500.

Critical workers

A critical worker is classified as someone who is needed to help keep things running as part of the Coronavirus response. It includes NHS workers, police, health and social care workers and and charity workers involved in the Coronavirus response plus others in essential services; for the full government list, see here.

Bristol City Council is offering free parking to NHS workers in its council run car parks. See here for further info.

Karshare is offering free car use to healthcare professionals. See here.

Green Flag is offering a free vehicle breakdown service for NHS workers. Just call 0800 051 009 if you break down and show your NHS ID for free recovery. See here.

Bristol Food Union is providing free meals for key workers and is running a scheme where people can donate a meal to a key worker. See here.

NHS England has pulled together a list of all the businesses offering free meals and discounts to NHS workers, see here.

I hope those of you who can will join me in applauding key workers at 8pm every Thursday as part of the clap for carers initiative. Head to your window or door and join in with the public round of applause.

Support for employees

Many people are, understandably, concerned about their job situation as a result of the uncertainty around Coronavirus – particularly people on zero hours contracts and those unable to work due to self-isolation, social distancing and caring for members of their family. Others are facing losing their jobs as a result of this.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – the government has cover the cost of 80% of employees earnings if they are furloughed due to their workplace closing as part of the Coronavirus response. It is hoped that this will result in fewer job losses. The scheme covers the four month period of March-October, with the level of government support set to change from August. More info, here.

The rules regarding Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) have been updated in light of the Coronavirus outbreak. The latest changes are available here.

ACAS has further advice for employees during this difficult time, here.

The Self Employment Income Support Scheme – to support self-employed people, the government is allowing you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed. Tax and VAT payments have also been deferred. More info, here.

If you’ve recently been made unemployed, you can find out more about the support available here. The Government is reviewing this and taking extra measures in response to the impact of Coronavirus.

People whose jobs and income have been affected by coronavirus can get help from the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) through its expanded career coaching and support service, Future Bright.
To find out more and sign up, see here. Or contact your local team at: futurebright@bristol.gov.uk

There are some free online digital skills courses here. Bristol City Council has more online courses free for those receiving benefits, see here.

Education

Schools and nurseries were closed to most pupils between March and June, with some now open. The government said that school provision will be made available for children of critical workers (see guidance above for what classifies as a critical worker) and vulnerable children. With some schools opening for Reception, Year One and Year Six and Year 10 from 1 June. Please check with your child’s school to confirm whether they will be.

I know that many parents are concerned about the amount of leave they may be able to take to look after their children if still required to work. You can find information about your right to time off for dependants here. Please also check with your employer as some have more generous allowances than others. You can also ask your employer to remain furloughed due to childcare issues, though they do not have to agree to this.

Home Learning Support materials for children of all ages, here. And specifically for those children with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) can be viewed here.

The Council has introduced a free school meal vouchers scheme which can be used to purchase food in local supermarkets. See here for details.

Future Quest is running online activities aimed at students in years 7-13. See here.

Food supplies

In light of panic buying, the UK’s leading supermarkets are assuring people that there is enough food to go round if people stick to what they need. Many have introduced a 2 or 3-item limit.

They have also introduced extra measures to ensure customers adhere to social distancing while shopping – including limiting the number of people in store at any one time.

Many have introduced set times for NHS and other critical workers only, to ensure they have access to the food they need. With online delivery slots filling up weeks in advance – a lot of supermarkets have introduced priority slots for those vulnerable customers in self-isolation.

Supermarket responses to Coronavirus

  • Aldi’s response here
  • Asda’s response here
  • Iceland’s response here
  • Lidl’s response here
  • Morrisons’ response here
  • Sainsbury’s response here
  • Tesco’s response here

Please also remember there are smaller shops across Bristol South, such as Parsons Bakery, Flip on North Street and Tobacco Factory Community Kitchen, many of which do have the supplies you need and welcome customers who are observing social distancing.

The Bristol Lockdown Economy website lists a range of local independent businesses offering online and delivery services during lockdown – see here. There’s another useful (searchable) list on Best of Bristol, here.

And if you live in BS3, there’s a new #WeAreBS3 app to connect you with local independent shops currently trading. See here.

Local food wholesaler Arthur David is now offering next day home delivery to BS postcodes, see here. And East Street Fruit Market is delivering fruit and veg boxes and waiving the delivery fee for older and vulnerable customers – see here.

Bristol South has a number of independent food banks (see below).

  • BS3 Community Larder based at St Pauls Church in Southville.
  • Carpenter’s Food and Support based in the Withywood Centre.
  • Counterslip Cares based in Counterslip Baptist Church in Whitchurch, covering Hengrove, Hartcliffe, Knowle, Knowle West and Totterdown too.
  • Refresh in Bedminster.
  • Victoria Park Baptist Church food bank.

In order to receive food bank support, please call the council’s hotline
between 8.30am and 5pm Monday to Friday on: 0800 694 0184

Organisations supporting people with food recognise the reasons people may be struggling to get food vary – and currently include people who are self-isolating and unable to get to the shops or secure an online delivery slot. There are a number of organisations to support you under these circumstances – it is not means tested.

Knowle West Alliance is helping Bristol City Council deliver food support to people in Knowle and Filwood and is looking to expand to other areas.

Bristol Disability Equality Forum has more info on these and some other independent businesses offering support, here.

Heart of BS13 has a community kitchen to distribute free frozen meals to people in Hartcliffe, Withywood and Bishopsworth. Call 0117 911 2719 (10am-5pm Mon, Wed, Thu), text 07500 599 637 or send a Facebook message to Heart of BS13.

The National Food Service delivers meals to hundreds of households across Bristol South each week; it is not means tested and you can self-refer by calling 0117 3250450. The helpline is open 10am-6pm Monday-Friday. If you can’t get through, leave a message and someone will call you back. To support the National Food Service with its local effort, see here.

Support services

Bristol City Council is co-ordinating the local effort and has launched a We Are Bristol hotline for people in need of support. You can reach it between 8.30am and 5pm Monday to Friday by calling: 0800 694 0184.

If you live in the Bedminster area and are self-isolating, BS3 Community is on hand to help you collect food, prescriptions, walk dogs and run other essential errands if needed. Call: 0117 3812181 or email: bs3.covidresponse@gmail.com for support.

The government announced a temporary ban on evictions and other support for renters. See here. Shelter offers free advice on housing issues, here. Or call: 0344 515 1430, lines open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm.

Levels of domestic abuse are currently higher than usual. Victims of domestic violence are not subject to the stay at home restrictions and can go out. There are safe spaces at Boots pharmacy consultation rooms , where people can contact specialist domestic abuse services for support and advice. More info, here.

Those facing domestic violence should call 999 if they need urgent help. If calling from a mobile, they will be connected to a phone operator who will ask which service is needed. If someone is unable to speak, they will be transferred to the Silent Solution system which runs a 20-second automated message. Here, they will be prompted to press 55 to be put through to the police. If they are calling from a landline phone and are unable to speak, the operator will connect them to the police directly.

If you are the victim of domestic abuse, or know someone who is then you can call the National helpline on 0808 2000247. In an immediate emergency, please call 999. If it is not possibly to speak the operator can guide you through some other response methods.

Bristol charity Next Link also runs a telephone helpline 10am-4pm Mon-Fri 0117 925 0680 for women and children who are the victims of domestic abuse and their website has more guidance too.

The Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Assault Support (SARSAS) helpline is open Mon 11am-2pm, Tue, Wed & Thu 12-2pm and 6-8pm and Fri 11am-2pm. Call: 0808 801 0456 or 0808 801 0464. Or see website, here.

If you are being shielded and need access to your benefits in cash form, the DWP has teamed up with the Post Office to offer cash deliveries. See here.

South Bristol Advice Services can offer help and guidance around debt and benefits issues. See here for details.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy can help those struggling with energy bills, they have vouchers available and other advice to help reduce energy bills. See here or call: 0800 082 2234.

We Care can help with home repairs or improvements. Find out more about the services on offer, here. Or call: 0300 323 0700 Mon-Fri 10am-4pm. Or email: info@wecr.org.uk

Age UK Bristol is supporting older people through this and has an online hub, here. You can also call their helpline: 0117 929 7537

The uncertainty we’re all currently facing may impact people’s mental health. The Government has some guidance for coping with that, here. And the NHS advice around mental health while staying home is available here. For those feeling desperate or alone, St Mungo’s helpline The Sanctuary is available from 4-10pm daily by calling 0117 954 2952 or 07709295661.

Heart of BS13 is running a Positive Minds helpline to support people in Hartcliffe, Withywood and Bishopsworth with emotional support, signposting and practical advice. Call 07378310079 between 9am-12noon Monday or 1-4pm Wednesday or 07880661239 between 1 and 4pm Thurday or 9am, and 12noon Friday. Alternatively, email minds@heartofbs13.org.uk

Ignite Life, which aims to enhance the lives of young people, is offering emotional support, welfare support and foodbank support to local families. Email hello@ignite-life.co.uk or call 07814 019447 or see here

This is a really worrying time, especially if you, or someone you know, are living with a terminal illness. Marie Curie’s dedicated Support Line is open 7 days a week via tel: 0800 090 2309 or web chat.

Bristol Law Centre offers free legal advice for a number of issues – from employment to immigration. You can find out more, here.

Turn2us provides practical information and support to people facing financial crisis. It includes a benefits Calculator and grants search function and has information about additional rights due to Coronavirus. See here. Or call: 0808 802 2000.

Ofcom is working with internet providers to ensure people remain connected during this time. It has launched a series of measures under the Stay Connected banner, including removing data caps. More info here.

How you can help

It’s been great to see so many people and organisations coming together to support the response to Coronavirus.

Bristol City Council is co-ordinating the citywide volunteering effort and has a registration page for anyone interested in volunteering to help with Can Do Bristol, see here.

Many of Bristol’s amazing foster carers are older and at a higher risk from the Covid-19, and may need to self-isolate, so the council urgently needs more carers. If you can help, you’ll receive all the training, support and advice you need to help Bristol’s vulnerable children, email fostering@bristol.gov.uk

If you can afford to donate to the local Coronavirus Response Fund, you can do so here. It will help fund charities and community organisations who are supporting people through this pandemic.

Knowle-based Square Food is helping hundreds of families with free healthy meals everyday. Donate to their #SquareMeals appeal here where your donation will be doubled thanks to some fund-matching from the Quartet Foundation.

Hartcliffe and Withywood Community Partnership is looking for people able to help with supporting the effort in Hartcliffe and Withywood by doing shopping, walking a dog, or providing a friendly chat on the telephone for people who are isolated, please email reception@hwcp.org.uk

Support for community organisations

The voluntary sector has a key role to play in the Coronavirus response, but we know that it’s a difficult time for charities and voluntary organisations. There is support available.

Voscur – which supports voluntary sector in Bristol – has lots of resources on its website, including guidance around safeguarding volunteers, volunteer agreement templates and guidance on GDPR and data protection. See here.

Locally, the Quartet Foundation has a big pot of money to give grants to local groups helping people through this and they are particularly keen to hear from organisations in Bristol South. For more info or to apply, see here.

The Charity Excellence Framework has an up-to-date list of funding sources on its website, here.

Bristol Food Network has a resource hub for organisations supporting people with food as part of the Coronavirus response, it includes best practice, funding opportunities and more – see here.

Support for businesses

Please see separate web page for support for local businesses, here.

Constituency surgeries

In line with the current public health advice, I have postponed by upcoming advice surgeries and face-to-face community engagements. My team and I are still working hard remotely to respond to constituents’ concerns as quickly as possible, although we will be prioritising cases relating to the Coronavirus outbreak.

If you live in Bristol South and need further advice or support, please get in touch by emailing karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk

I hope that you and your family stay safe during this difficult time – please do reach out for help if you need it. The community response to this situation has been heartening. Together, we can ensure that we support those who need help. 

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