MP for Dartford
23rd April 2020
Coronavirus - update
When the First Secretary, Dominic Raab announced on 16th April that the UK would remain in lockdown for at least a further three weeks, he acknowledged that it is "rough going" but said that "we've sacrificed too much to ease up now."
I appreciate that for those staying at home, every day feels like 'Groundhog Day' but it is essential to save lives. It is tough for people to be unable to visit loved-ones or to go out and visit favourite places but we need to stick with this. It is temporary and although we still have some way to go, we will get past this and enjoy everything life has to offer, once again.
We cannot be complacent, but the NHS has not been overwhelmed by this outbreak. There is spare capacity in hospitals, including 3,000 spare critical care beds plus the 'over-spill' provided by the new NHS Nightingale.
The lockdown will be reviewed on 7th May, but in order to ease the measures, the Government has set out five tests which need to be met. To view these five tests, please click on the video below.
Five tests to meet before lockdown can be eased
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This is one of the latest graphics used in the press briefings showing the number of people in hospital with Covid-19.
Darent Valley Hospital
Firstly, I want to take this opportunity to thank our front-line NHS staff at Darent Valley Hospital. They are doing a fantastic job under unprecedented circumstances. Despite this, Darent Valley Hospital has said people must not ignore symptoms and that if they need to access their services, these are still available to them, including Accident & Emergency.
There has been much in the national press recently about the supply of PPE for those on the front-line and my office has been in regular contact with Darent Valley Hospital about this issue. The hospital has assured me that it has satisfactory levels of PPE. The supply of PPE remains a challenge but Darent Valley Hospital is rising to this challenge. Our local paramedics also have PPE but we have to continue with the 24/7 military operation to ensure the supply continues.
There is also good news to be found on the Darent Valley Hospital Facebook page. The hospital posts regular updates with stories of those who have recovered from Covid-19, including an NHS radiographer who was admitted on 3rd April. He was treated with ground-breaking therapy and was discharged on 19th April.
It has been a very challenging time for the staff at DVH, both physically and emotionally and the hospital is proactively supporting their well-being. We are fortunate to have such a good hospital on our doorstep and such a fantastic local community assisting their efforts in fighting coronavirus.
Coronavirus testing centre
The Government's newest testing centre for coronavirus is being built at Ebbsfleet International Station and is one of a number of regional testing sites.
It is aimed at key workers and will operate on an appointment only basis and it will help to significantly increase the amount of testing taking place.
Britain’s biggest network of diagnostic labs are completed in 5 weeks
The rapid creation of three new laboratories in Milton Keynes, Glasgow and Alderley Park in Cheshire is increasing the country’s capacity to test for coronavirus, with each site scaling up to test tens of thousands of patient samples each day.
Each individual site took just three weeks to complete and begin testing.
The new mega-labs are staffed by an army of highly qualified staff and volunteers from industry and academia, drawn from across the country.
These groups are working tirelessly to rapidly analyse coronavirus tests for NHS, social care and other front-line workers, allowing those testing negative to safely and quickly return to work.
The laboratories will test samples from drive through testing sites, with new sites set up nearly each day across the UK. Work is ongoing to set up 50 of these drive-through sites, and there are now 27 in operation, including in Wembley, Manchester and Glasgow.
Thanks to increased testing capacity, the Government is extending testing to a wider group of front-line workers in addition to patients, NHS or social care workers who need one. Front-line workers who are eligible – have symptoms of coronavirus, a high temperature or new continuous cough – and would like to be tested should speak to their employer.
Job Retention Scheme
The Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme went live on 20th April, ten days ahead of schedule and employers can now go online to claim cash grants worth up to 80% of wages, capped at £2,500 a month per worker. The money is expected to land in their bank accounts within six working days of applying.
On the first day the scheme went live, more than 140,000 companies employing a total of about a million workers submitted applications.
The Chancellor recently announced the scheme will be extended to June.
The Government is launching a new Future Fund worth £500 million, to make sure that high growth companies across the UK can continue to access the investment they need during the crisis.
Launching in May, the Future Fund will provide UK-based early stage companies with convertible loans between £125,000 and £5 million.
The Future Fund will match investments made by private investors in early stage businesses, on terms that protect the UK taxpayer.
Alongside the new Future Fund, the Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, has worked closely with Innovate UK – our national innovation agency to provide £750 million of grant and loan funding for tens of thousands of highly innovative firms in every sector, and every region and nation of the UK.
Vaccine trials begin
The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, revealed that a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed at the University of Oxford, will be trialled on people from today.
He also announced a further £20 million in funding for this project, together with £22.5 million to support phase 2 clinical trials at Imperial College.
Britain is investing more into the international search for a vaccine than any other country in the world as ultimately this is the best way we will defeat this virus.
During this time, I am in regular contact with the Chief Constable of Kent and the Police and Crime Commissioner about the approach Kent Police is taking to this outbreak.
I am pleased that Kent Police has not adopted some of the more draconian approaches we have seen with other forces and is choosing to police by consent instead. Their officers will issue enforcement notices when necessary, and as a last resort. I can report that this has only been necessary on 64 occasions throughout the county during the period of lockdown. Given that the county has a population of 1.8 million, this shows a high degree of compliance.
I am also pleased to report that Kent Police has the highest attendance of officers in the country with an absence rate of just 4% compared with a national figure of 10%.
The overall crime rate in Dartford has fallen substantially during this period. We can continue to be proud of Kent Police who risk their safety every day to protect us during these difficult times.
(previous St George's day celebrations in Dartford)
St George's day
I would like to wish everyone a very happy St George's day. Dartford has always been proud to celebrate our patron saint's day and I look forward to enjoying St George's day once again.
I do not underestimate the effect this virus is having on Dartford and the heartbreak and frustration it is causing. I do believe we will come through this dark time. Dartford has shown it has enormous character and strength and together we can look forward to a more positive future.
[Gareth Johnson MP website]<[link removed]>
Gareth Johnson MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Tel: 0207 219 7047
email: [email protected]
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