BRITISH NATIONALS STRANDED ABROAD
Since other countries started to restrict travel earlier this month, one of the things on which my office has been working hardest is assisting our Richmond Park residents stranded abroad. We have helped four Richmond families get home, some from very remote locations, and we are still working with another 32 constituents to get them home too.
Last night the Foreign Secretary announced that they have at last agreed a plan with the major British airlines to fly home tens of thousands of stranded British travellers, where commercial flights are no longer possible. Partner airlines so far include British Airways, Virgin, Easyjet, Jet2 and Titan.
If you know someone who is stranded in a country that still has commercial flights to the UK running, please urge them to book one as soon as possible. If commercial flights are still running from their location then the airline they booked on originally will still be responsible for getting them home. That means offering alternative flights at little to no cost or allowing passengers to change tickets, including between carriers, if necessary.
Where commercial flights are no longer running, the government will now be providing £75 million for special charter flights to bring UK nationals back home. In arranging these flights, the priority will be the most vulnerable, including the elderly or those with particularly pressing medical needs. They will also prioritise countries where large numbers of UK tourists are stranded. Charter flights are already running from Ghana and Tunisia. They aim to keep adding countries, hopefully including India and South Africa, very soon.
These flights may happen at relatively short notice, so UK travellers should check Foreign Office Travel Advice on a frequent basis and sign up for alerts. They should also follow the social media of the UK embassy or high commission in the country where they are.
Foreign Office Call Centre: (0)20 7008 1500 - open 24/7 but very busy so please be patient.
Foreign Office Travel Advice: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus
British Embassies' Social Media accounts: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office/about/social-media-use#worldwide-foreign-office-social-media-accounts
DOGS ON LEADS IN PARKS
I have also heard from a number of constituents who are disappointed to be told that dogs must be kept on leads in Richmond Park, as in other parks and open spaces. I have asked Royal Parks about this and have been told that the reason is that a minority of dogs will not return to their owners when called and will approach other people and dogs. This necessitates the owners coming into close contact to retrieve them, putting everyone involved at risk.
I know it is frustrating if your dog is well behaved off the lead and is being denied the chance to roam because of other people's dogs. But please understand that this protective measure is one that Royal Parks will keep under review. If it is possible to reinstate free range dog walking they will be happy to do so.
FAKE GOVERNMENT TEXTS
I have heard that a number of people have received texts purporting to be from the government. These fake texts inform the receiver that they have been fined for leaving the house and give a link to pay the "fine" online. These texts are fraudulent - they are part of a scam. Please do not make any payments online or over the phone in response to a text, and please share this information, especially with anyone who is vulnerable.
SUPPORTING LOVED ONES WITH CANCER
Sadly, most of the people who were struggling with serious illnesses before coronavirus arrived still have to face that challenge. Many may be unsure of how best to protect themselves - especially those living with cancer who, alongside their friends and families, will want to take extra care. Cancer Research have made a web guide to address this and have asked me to share this link.
SOUTHWEST LONDON LAW CENTRE - OFFERING FREE LEGAL ADVICE
South West London Law Centres have been in touch to let me know that they are still open and able to support local people, while complying with social distancing. Their offices are closed, but they are still offering advice by phone on a range of legal problems, including: Housing, Employment, Debt, and Welfare Rights.
Phone 020 8767 2777 or for debt advice call 020 8667 9252.
A number of my constituents have also been in touch asking me to clarify points that they feel they have received unclear advice from government about, such as who exactly is allowed to be working outside the home, what retail businesses must do to enforce social distancing and hygiene measures, and where residents are allowed to take their exercise.
I have been speaking to my colleagues in Parliament about this, and I expect that as the government refines its response to the crisis many of these questions will be answered. In the meantime, please try to err on the side of caution. The more careful we all are now, the better the outcome will be for the country down the line. Thank you for all the sacrifices you are already making, and for committing to carrying on until this is over.