The response to Coronavirus continues to dominate daily life here in Birmingham Ladywood and across the UK. As many of you will already be aware, the Government has this week implemented new measures to try to prevent the further spread of the virus. Travel outside the home is now to be limited to essential shopping, once for daily exercise, to meet medical or care needs, and for essential travel to and from work. Only those considered key workers should continue to travel to work, and schools remain open only for children of key workers. Children whose parents are separated may still travel between their homes but should maintain the 2-metre distance rule between themselves and others.
You can find the full advice on social distancing here – please do check back every so often for updates. I cannot stress how vital it is that everyone follows these rules – by staying home, we will help the NHS cope with the demand on their services. The health service needs us to limit our exposure to others in order to limit the spread of the virus. If too many of us spread the virus around, the NHS will be overwhelmed, and they will not be able to cope. So, please, stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.
Across the constituency and the nation, our NHS workers are doing a phenomenal job in protecting us and keeping us safe, and we must support them in their work. It was particularly touching to see and hear people coming onto their doorsteps last night to applaud these hard-working heroes. Our NHS workers are amazing – as are all of those keeping our schools, supermarkets, and care services going at this difficult time.
The Chancellor made an important announcement this week about support for the self-employed. He outlined a support package, whereby 80% of average monthly earnings up to £2,500 will be paid to self-employed workers who earned under £50,000 in 2018/19. This is very welcome news for those who are covered by the package, but I know that some people will not be covered, and in either case the payments will not be made until June, which is concerning. More information about the scheme can be found on the Government website here, but I will continue to press for more information about how people can get the support they need in the immediate term.
There were also concerns this week over Government proposals to allow local authorities to disregard the Public Health Act 1984 where it relates to funeral arrangements, and to cremate bodies against the wishes of the deceased and their family. The proposal was initially put forward to deal with a potential surge in deaths and a shortage of space in cemeteries. However, in both Muslim and Jewish faiths, cremation is forbidden, and families have understandably been dismayed at the prospect of their relatives being cremated against their wishes. Thanks to the work of campaigners and Labour MPs, the Government have listened to concerns and brought forward their own amendment to address such concerns. It is heartening to see that in these difficult times, cross-party efforts can achieve a lot and that we are all united in supporting all the people of the UK through this crisis.
Locally, I’ve been working with Cllr Sharon Thompson to ensure that religious beliefs continue to be respected for burials in Birmingham. My key aim has been to protect the right for people to be buried in accordance with their religious beliefs, even in these unprecedented times. Our work over the past week has been focused on ensuring that Birmingham City Council has the processes and resources in place to deliver on this promise. Sharon and I will both continue to work together to monitor the situation so that any issues that may arise can be mitigated at the earliest opportunity.
I am extremely pleased that here in Birmingham, no family will be forced to bury their loved ones in a way that compromises their religious beliefs. We will always defend the rights of families, and the dignity of all our citizens in life and death.
Following numerous enquiries from constituents stranded in Peru, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, I’ve written to the Foreign Secretary to ask him to do all he can to repatriate them as soon as possible. It’s vital that the UK Government does everything it can to ensure British nationals are retuned home at the earliest possible opportunity. I’ll be continuing to liaise directly with the Foreign Office to raise individual cases from constituents.
In other local news, I am fully supporting the decision of Birmingham City Council to request a pause from the UK Government on implementing the Clean Air Zone in the city. While pollution remains an important and pressing issue, in order for the CAZ to work it has to be well-prepared to bring the maximum benefit to all. This cannot be done at the present time, for obvious reasons. The Council’s focus has to be on the present crisis and they are rightfully diverting all resources to support the Government’s efforts to manage the pandemic. I remain committed to supporting a CAZ in Birmingham, and it’s an issue we can all return to once we have tackled the coronavirus pandemic.
As ever, if you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0121 661 9440. Myself and my team are of course subject to many of the same challenges and restrictions as other families in Birmingham Ladywood at the minute, but we will do everything we can to help constituents in these difficult times.
Keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!