We are now into the second week of the lockdown, and by and large people are obeying the restrictions.
The uncertainty about how long this will last for is very unsettling. But we have to stick to the plan for everyone’s sake, and we will get through this quicker.
Much of my work in the last couple of weeks has been on two areas: getting stranded constituents home from abroad; and trying to persuade ministers to fill in the gaps in their support schemes.
There were celebrations in the Garden Quarter earlier this week when Neil Kendall returned home from Peru. His Facebook videos, seen by many of us, detailed how desperate the conditions were over there. We persuaded the government to charter planes to get our people home from Peru, including Neil, but there are still many thousands more stranded elsewhere and I want to see stronger action, using British airlines whose planes are now sitting idle.
I welcomed the government’s support for businesses. But these packages still have too many holes in. Alongside other MPs, I am talking to ministers about how we can get these gaps filled.
For example, the government is offering loans to businesses to keep them going. But these loans are offered through the main banks and some banks are demanding personal guarantees from the company directors. So, the government is underwriting the banks’ risks, but not the small businesses’ risks. That must change and the banks must stop this behaviour and give businesses confidence.
I am also concerned that some companies are making their employees come into work even if these are not key workers and even if the employee should be isolating because, for example they have a health condition or someone in their family does.
Where this happens, I am going directly to the employer to ask them to stop.
There has also been help for the self-employed. But the current proposals do not cover people who became self-employed in the past year. Nor does it help those sole traders who pay themselves a small amount each month but then at the end of the year a one-off payment when they know how much they can afford.
Hundreds of businesses in Chester operate this way. I want the Chancellor to start thinking about them.
We have not been in this type of crisis for over seventy years. The uncertainty is awful. And we will see fatalities. But if we stick to the rules, stay strong as a community, and look out for each other, then we will come through this together and our community will be stronger as a result.
Please note: Due to the social distancing advice from Public Health England, I am not currently holding face to face surgeries. Please email me at email@example.com or call 01244 343214. To find out more about my work on the pandemic and for local links to help and support services, please visit chrismatheson.co.uk/coronavirus.