Anne Marie's Weekly Column - COVID-19 Update

The Government is doing everything it can to help people across the country face the challenges this new virus brings. Together we can come through this and we must all play our part. The Government is focussed on rapidly increasing the medical resources we have to cope with the rising acute and intensive care needs. It is also pumping huge sums into the economy and into pay packets.

But none of this will make a difference until and unless all of us take seriously the call for social distancing. That means keeping 2 metres or 6 feet away from each other. The message to stay at home unless you are out working or on an essential journey means just that. Do not travel or leave your home unless it is an essential trip to get to work, get food, or help a vulnerable person. It is most important that those vulnerable individuals who receive a letter from Government to self-isolate do so for twelve weeks. Nobody is invincible. Everyone will be doing their bit to serve the country and ease pressure on the NHS by staying home.

80 per cent wage guarantee

For the first time in our history, the Government is paying people’s wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Government grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500. HMRC are expected to be making payments within weeks. Businesses should check HMRC’s website for updates. The Government is now working on a scheme to support the self-employed. While they can claim universal credit at the level of sick pay, that is not enough nor is it fair.

Loans, grants and tax support for business

The Government is deferring the next three months of VAT until the end of the financial year. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBIL), of up to £5 million per business is now interest free for twelve months. The British Business Bank will deliver the loan scheme and information can be found at Small businesses will be able to access grant funding of £10,000 for all businesses in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief and there is grant funding of £25,000 available for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

For those not able to work

Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit will be increased by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months. Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits are suspended for the next three months to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure. The full measures announced can be found on my website - This will be updated if/when new information is available.

Guaranteeing food supplies

The Government is working with supermarkets, local authorities, and charities, to ensure that those who need to stay at home will have continued access to food. Changes have been made to allow supermarkets to work together and replenish their shelves more quickly. Supermarkets have tackled selfish bulk buying by introducing item limits. They have also ring-fenced an early morning shopping slot for NHS staff, the elderly and the medically vulnerable.

Community Help

Across Teignbridge communities have got together to look after those who need help in Dawlish, Teignmouth, Kingsteignton, Newton Abbot and of course our many village communities. Whether it’s getting shopping or collecting prescriptions, people are there to help. I am very proud of you all. I will endeavour to keep my website up to date with local contacts and latest government advice. Any community group who wants me to put contact details on my website please let me know and I will add them.

My next phone-in surgery will be Friday 27th March at 12-1pm. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment. My team and I are here to help at any time - email and we will respond as fast as we can.