The Government is today expected to extend the UK’s Coronavirus lockdown by a further 3 weeks. The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab who is deputising for Boris Johnson will chair meetings of the Cabinet and Cobra Committee before a decision is announced this afternoon. Ministers have signalled they are not planning to relax the restrictions until there is clear evidence that the Coronavirus infections have peaked.
2. Care and Social Services
Leading Social Care Officials have described the Government’s handling of the pandemic as Shambolic. In a letter to the Department of Health that’s been leaked to the BBC the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services says the provision of personal protective equipment was initially poultry and there have been mixed messages about shielding vulnerable people.
3. Government Volunteer Scheme
There are criticisms of the Government’s Volunteer Scheme due to the army of volunteers in the initial weeks not having anything to do but also that it distracted from a local effort to provide support. The Care Home Bosses appreciate the Government Volunteer Scheme and have welcomed and are glad about the steps taken by Matthew Hancock yesterday.
The Government says it continues to work closely with the Social Care Sector to ensure it has everything it needs to respond to the outbreak.
4. Government Funeral Guidelines
The Government has set up guidelines in relation to funerals and crematoriums. The guidelines suggest numbers should be restricted to close family. The reason for this was to try to keep mourners and staff safe while allowing immediate family to say goodbye to their loved ones.
Some local authorities have varied how they have interpreted the Government guidelines resulting in considerable variation. Among local authorities figures range from 6 in Birmingham to 25 in the Highlands. Other councils including Leeds and Bradford have banned mourners completely.
The National Association of Funeral Directors has accused some local authorities of being too heavy handed as they restrict the number of mourners allowed to attend services during the lockdown in attempting to follow the Government’s guidance.
5. Virtual Parliament Proposal
A proposal to set up a virtual parliament is expected to be endorsed by the House of Commons authorities this morning. MP’s will be able to contribute from home including asking questions when in session. The Labour MP, Catherine McKinnell is in favour so that constituents who are contacting each of us as MPs telling us what needs to happen and what they need, need the Government to hear their voices. Michael Hancock acknowledged that a lot of the changes that have been made in the Government’s approach have come from this scrutiny from the constituents offering their opinions through their MP’s.
6. Staff for Food Producers
Food producers have recognised an acute shortage of fruit and vegetable pickers. They have been working closely with Public Health England who have agreed to 6 flights being arranged from Romania to the UK.
Gs Fresh, one of the UK’s biggest food producers, has chartered 2 out of the 6 flights arriving to the UK today at Stansted airport. When the workers arrive they will have their temperatures checked and be given face-masks and hand-sanitiser. From the airport they will be taken by bus to East Anglia where the group will be quarantined within small teams in on-site hostel accommodation. After the quarantine period the farm workers from Romania will be picking lettuces.
7. Captain Tom Moore
Captain Tom Moore, age 99, decided he wanted to raise money for NHS charities. He decided his challenge to raise this money would be to walk 100 laps of his garden with his walking frame before his 100th birthday on 30th April. He should finish this morning. When he discovered he’d raised over £5 million for NHS charities together he said it was “completely out of this world”. 24 hours later that total had doubled. Now he has raised £12 million.
He served in India and Burma in the Second World War and says this time our army are the doctors and nurses.