COVID-19 Latest Advice
The ongoing Covid outbreak presents a major challenge to our society, including us on the Isle of Wight. We will come through it and we will do so whilst looking after everyone in our community.
I have divided this guidance under the following headings:
- Critical Advice
- Local Covid-19 Alert Level
- Face coverings
- NHS contact tracing app
- Testing on the Island
- Ferries - Steps to keep the Isle of Wight safe
- The Voluntary Sector
- Jobs, Business and the Island Economy
- Business support
- Find out what support you can get if you’re affected by Covid-19
- Work and financial support
- Local Food Deliveries
- The Isle of Wight NHS Trust
- The Voluntary Sector
- What am I doing as your Member of Parliament?
- Key numbers and links for Islanders
Background - What is Covid-19?
Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Most people infected will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without special treatment. Older folks and those with underlying medical problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer may develop a more serious illness. The Covid-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).
This virus will pass, but the more we work together, the quicker it will pass. That is why the Government has taken unprecedented action to limit the spread of the virus, to support peoples’ jobs and to make provision to look after the more vulnerable in our community. It needs to be said that this is a learning process for all of us.
Local Covid-19 Alert Level
At the time of writing, the Isle of Wight is in Local COVID Alert Level: Medium.
- Follow this link to find out what you can and cannot do within the Medium Tier
Please be advised, this guidance is for people who are fit and well. I have posted links below with separate guidance for:
- households with a possible or confirmed coronavirus infection
- people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus
Face coverings: when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own
I know that the Government is following scientific guidance to ensure that steps are taken to ensure that people are able to go about their business as safely as possible. Face coverings should cover the mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably.
- Follow this link to access the latest Government advice. It explains what face coverings are, their role in reducing the transmission of coronavirus (Covid-19), outlines cases for exemption, the settings in which they are recommended, and how they should be safely used and stored
NHS contact tracing app
The new NHS Covid-19 app is now available to download for free. It is the fastest way to see if you're at risk from coronavirus. The faster you know, the quicker you can alert and protect your loved ones and fellow Islanders.
- NHS test and trace: how it works
- NHS test and trace: workplace guidance
- Get help downloading the app
Covid-19 Testing on the Island
With regard to Covid-19 testing facilities on the Isle of Wight, I have been in discussions with the IW Council about this as we want to avoid Islanders needing to travel to the mainland for testing.
I am concerned by repeat reports that Islanders have been struggling to access both home test kits and appointments at the Island’s drive-through testing facility at Newclose Cricket Ground. This is something I have written to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, about to urge him to take swift action to address this issue.
As an Island, we have unique circumstances when it comes to testing. This is a critical issue and I have consistently made the case for this with the Local Government Minister, the Public Health Minister as well as with other colleagues in Parliament.
- Find out more about coronavirus testing
- Get a test to check if you have coronavirus
- Book a test if you have a verification code
Quick Links: Testing for NHS and Care staff
- Book a test to see if you have coronavirus now
- Care home workers: book your test
- How to take a swab test and where to send samples
Ferries - Steps to keep the Isle of Wight safe
The Covid-19 outbreak has significantly reduced demand for the day-to-day services provided by the three operators, Hovertravel, Wightlink and Red Funnel. At the start of this outbreak, I urged the Government to ensure support for cross-Solent travel operators in the Coronavirus Bill. This has now been enacted. The Government is temporarily suspending competition law to allow ferry operators in the Isle of Wight to work together and maintain a crucial lifeline between the island and the mainland during the Covid-19 outbreak.
I am in regular contact with all cross-Solent operators to ensure I can represent your concerns with them directly.
As with workplaces, transport operators should follow appropriate guidance to make their services Covid-19 Secure, I am reassured by their Chief Executives that all vessels operate in line with Government guidance.
However, I have received emails from some Islanders with concerns about the use of face coverings on cross-Solent ferries. While it important that everyone follows government guidance, some people are exempt from wearing a face-covering due to health reasons. Staff on the Island’s ferries are aware of this guidance, but I am grateful for those bringing this to my attention.
Passengers wishing to remain in their cars on cross-Solent ferries must contact their ferry company 72 hours before sailing. This service is for those with medical conditions that are put at high risk of illness by using public.
I am aware that some ticket offices remain closed due to the current circumstances. While I have raised this with the relevant ferry companies, I understand that they are working in line with government guidance and that bookings can be made online or over the phone.
Jobs, Business and the Island Economy
I am very aware that businesses are worried about Coronavirus - the impact it will have on their incomes and their ability to provide for their families. This is especially true in the Island due to the potential loss of tourism business.
I am in regular contact with organisations across the Island, this includes businesses large and small as well as groups such as the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce, the National Farmers Union (NFU) on the Island and the voluntary sector that also employ many Islanders. I have raised their concerns with Ministers in public and in private. Any updates will be updated on this website.
If any business is struggling, and worrying they may need to lose staff, I would urge you to follow this link and look very carefully at what support is available before deciding to lay people off. Covid-19 support is available to most businesses, providing a lifeline in these uncertain times; it is an unprecedented series of measures including loans, tax relief and cash grants.
You can find support with:
- Funding and support for all businesses
- Self-employed people and sole traders
- How to run your business safely
Find out what support you can get if you’re affected by Covid-19
Should anyone be struggling with the effects of Covid-19, I urge you to use this service to find out what help and advice you can get from the government and other organisations. You can use it for yourself or someone else. As ever, please do not hesitate to contact me via email@example.com should you have any concerns.
You can find support with:
- what to do if you’re feeling unsafe where you live, or if you’re worried about someone else
- paying your bills, rent, or mortgage
- getting food
- being made redundant or unemployed, or not having any work
- what to do if you’re worried about going into work
- having somewhere to live
- mental health and wellbeing, including information for children
Work and financial support
Further useful links:
- Financial support if you’re off work because of coronavirus
- Help if you’ve lost your job
- Financial support if you’re self-employed and getting less work or no work
- How to return to work safely if you cannot work from home
Local Food Deliveries
Supermarkets have plenty of food and are gearing up to deliver more. However, due to the demand for home delivery, they are finding it difficult to meet demand. Rather than queue for prolonged periods outside the bigger stores, may I suggest that Islanders take this opportunity to support their own local shops which, especially in rural areas of the Island, deliver. These include:
- Most generally, www.atoztome.com/ is a useful site which helps find local businesses that deliver food, medicines, meals and more, to your door.
- Norris Family Grocers has a full range of food and drink and delivers to Niton, Chale and Whitwell. Orders at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 01983 730275
- Brighstone Village Shop delivers in the West Wight and has a very wide variety of foods and drink: 01983 740 843, and email email@example.com
- D.W Jarvis Family Butchers and Online Shop are working as normal. 01983 562382
- Root and fruit & Barrow boys deliver Island-wide: www.barrowboysiw.co.uk, 01983 566636 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Four Winds Dairy IOW delivers milk, butter, eggs, cheeses, cream, jams/marmalades, chutneys, and fruit and vegetables. 07472 747484
- Island Foods continues to provide an island-wide delivery service available 6 days a week. 01983 717606
- Brownriggs Farm Shop delivers: Brownriggfarmmeats.co.uk, email email@example.com, 01983 840 191
The Isle of Wight NHS Trust
What the Trust has done on the Island in such a short space of time is nothing short of remarkable. It has stopped all non-urgent operations and outpatient appointments and is restricting visiting St Mary’s. It has moved the Community Unit to Ryde Health and Wellbeing Centre, which has freed up 25 beds on the main hospital site.
I would like to thank the Isle of Wight NHS Trust who I know are working extraordinarily hard to care for those who have already tested positive for the virus while ensuring the hospital is ready to care for any new admissions. Wards have been reconfigured to create Isolation Wards to treat patients confirmed as having Covid-19. The Intensive Care Unit has increased from 6 ventilated beds to 18 with plans to increase to 45. The Trust has also been working with military planners to deliver a further significant increase in additional beds at the St Mary’s site if needed and has also identified other potential sites if necessary.
The Voluntary Sector
At times of crisis, people come together. We have a fantastic voluntary sector on the Island, and I know it will emerge stronger after this, as individuals and communities come together to help each other through this period. I take this opportunity to thank all those people who do voluntary work on the Island, and for those who will help support the NHS and all of us through the next few weeks.
On the Island, I have linked initiatives below that may be of interest. Please bear in mind that if you’re from an at-risk group, e.g. 70 years of age or over and/or with a pre-existing medical condition, we ask that you temporarily stop volunteering until the government guidance changes:
- NHS Volunteer Responders has been set up to support the NHS during the Covid-19 outbreak. It covers a variety of roles. A link to this is here.
- A superb local volunteer database has been set up by Community Action Isle of Wight. This distributes volunteers to cover all of the Island’s communities. The link can be found here. This has an associated discussion group which can be found here.
- To the wider public ‘WightAID’ is an initiative providing an opportunity for those who wish to donate money directly into the community support being delivered across the Island - much of which is being undertaken by volunteers
- Volunteer groups are working with the Isle of Wight Council to set-up up delivery systems
- Please also consider donating to the Island’s food bank at this time - thank you
What am I doing as your Member of Parliament?
I have raised the Island in almost every debate, Urgent Question (UQs) or Government statement which has taken place on the floor of the House of Commons (in debates, one can talk to a number of issues, in UQs or Statements one is generally only allowed to ask a question).
On the Island, I am hosting - by phone due to the situation – meetings with a wide range of groups, individuals and organisations.
In addition, I talk daily with members of the Isle of Wight Council or the NHS. Almost all the feedback I receive is passed directly to Government Ministers. In some instances, I have talked to doctors and then passed that information, request or concern to Government Ministers in Parliamentary debates minutes later.
At the start of this outbreak, I urged the Government to ensure support for cross-Solent travel operators in the Coronavirus Bill. This has now been enacted. The government is temporarily suspending competition law to allow ferry operators in the Isle of Wight to work together and maintain a crucial lifeline between the island and the mainland during the Covid-19 outbreak. As with workplaces, transport operators should follow appropriate guidance to make their services Covid-19 Secure. The reason I have raised the Island is that we are more vulnerable than most other parts of the UK due to our dependency on ferries. Key workers, mutual aid for the hospital, medicines and food supplies are also reliant on the three cross-Solent operators.
I have also spoken personally with the Prime Minister, where we discussed ongoing support for the hospitality sector and visitor economy which the Isle of Wight needs.I asked the PM for a 5% VAT rate for food, accommodation and attractions to continue for as long as possible, a longer payback period for Covid-19 business loans, additional support for local pubs and greater flexibility over money given to the Isle of Wight Council to support our businesses.
More recently, I have grown concerned by repeat reports that Islanders have been struggling to access both home test kits and appointments at the Island’s drive-through testing facility at Newclose Cricket Ground. This is something I have written to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, about to urge him to take swift action to address this issue. As an Island, we have unique circumstances when it comes to testing. This is a critical issue and I have consistently made the case for this with the Local Government Minister, the Public Health Minister as well as with other colleagues in Parliament.
Many have contacted me about concerns over the Coronavirus Act 2020. After campaigning for more Parliamentary scrutiny, I welcome that the Government has sought to offer MPs a vote on changes to regulations wherever that is possible, on England- or UK-wide measures before they come into place. I agree that it is vital for actions to be taken as swiftly as possible in the fight against coronavirus, but I also believe it is important that Parliament has additional opportunities to thoroughly examine new measures before they are put in place wherever that can be achieved.
In short, I have been doing everything in my power to ensure the safety and security of people on the Isle of Wight.
Key Contact Numbers
The Government has set up the following hotlines, which I urge you to make use of. These will be able to provide you with a quick response to an urgent query:
- Business support & Ventilators: 0300 456 3565
- HMRC: 0800 015 9559
- Universal Credit: 0800 328 5644
- School closures and education: 0800 046 8687
- The Government’s comprehensive page is linked, here.
- The Council’s helpline for vulnerable Islanders is 01983 823 600 and a help page is linked, here.
To Sum Up
As I said, Coronavirus will pass but the more we work together, the quicker it will pass. That is why the Government has taken unprecedented action to limit the spread of the virus, to support the economy and to make provision to look after the more vulnerable in our community.