Updated: Jan 13
Since the rate of Covid-19 transmission began to skyrocket in December, I have heard from many concerned constituents. They are worried about people breaking the rules on socialising, or the risks of sending children to school and nursery, or how their businesses will survive. All are anxious for the vaccine to be rolled out as quickly as possible.
Given the level of anxiety so many people are experiencing, as well as the heightened transmissibility of the new variant of Covid-19, I would like to reiterate my request that everyone be extra careful not to expose anyone else to their exhalations. It will reduce both transmission and anxiety if everyone wears a mask when they are out, even when outside. This especially applies if you are standing in a queue or walking along a busy pavement. Anything you can do to make it easier for people to give each other distance will also help. If you are walking with a household member, please think to walk single file when someone is coming towards you on a path.
An additional source of worry for my constituents is anti-vaccine misinformation. I would like to assure everyone that extensive trials were conducted on all of the vaccines approved for use here, and all of the scientific evidence indicates that they are safe. If you would like to see separate safety data for the three approved vaccines, you can find it here. I strongly encourage everyone in Richmond Park to take up the vaccine when they are offered it, to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Today's data indicates that case rates in Richmond and Kingston boroughs are finally beginning to level off as we start to see the results of the current lockdown. Hospitalisation rates have not come down yet, as they always lag 2-3 weeks behind infection rates, but it looks like the tighter restrictions are starting to have an effect. We may yet be able to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed in southwest London, but we each need to do our part to ensure that infections continue to drop and that they stay down until the vaccination programme is further along.
KINGSTON HOSPITAL VACCINATION UPDATE
Kingston Hospital has written to me to say that their vaccination programme is going well so far. Since December 29 they have been vaccinating vulnerable hospital patients and patients aged 80 and above, staff from local care homes, London Ambulance staff and staff from Kingston Hospital and the local community NHS trusts.
GP practices are working together in groups called Primary Care Networks to deliver the vaccine to people in the community. Vaccinations may not take place at residents’ usual GP practice, but at a primary care vaccination site (led by GPs and practice nurses.)
Around 4,000 care home workers out of about 14,000 have been vaccinated, and they will continue to work hard to encourage them to do so. They are working closely with council officers to coordinate vaccine appointments for front line social care workers.
GP surgeries are working flat out to deliver the vaccine to their patients. You will be contacted by them when they are ready to vaccinate you - please do not phone them about it yet. They may contact you by letter, phone or text, but please remember that they will not ask for your personal details over the phone and certainly not your financial information.
QUESTION ON CLADDING IN CHAMBER
This week in Parliament I had the opportunity to participate in an important debate about fire safety. Many of my constituents are in an impossible situation with respect to cladding on their properties. I spoke on their behalf in the debate, asking the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to fund the necessary remediation works and then, where appropriate, claim back the funds from the responsible party. You can see my question and the disappointing response here.
MEETING WITH KINGSTON COLLEGE
I spoke with staff from Kingston College recently, to discuss their experience during the pandemic. They explained how important it is that the reopening of technical education is prioritised for 16-19 year olds when it is safe to do so. Many BTEC courses cannot be taught or assessed remotely -- learning and exams must be hands on. I wrote to the Education Secretary after the meeting to urge him to consider this, and to make him aware of the need for vital funding streams to continue for the remainder of the academic year. You can see the full text of my letter to the Secretary here.
TFL FUNDING MORE CYCLE PARKING
Transport for London (TfL) has announced that they have awarded funding of more than £1million to create up to 2,000 much-needed new cycle parking spaces across the capital.
Having experimented with cycling to Westminster last summer, I received feedback from other people who were willing to try it that the lack of secure parking discouraged them. I’m pleased to see that TfL are doing something to address the huge problem of bike theft in this area.
Recent data published by TfL showed walking and cycling accounted for half of all journeys between April and June, up from 29 per cent before the pandemic. We need to support people to continue cycling and encourage more people to take it up, especially young people. So was happy to hear that this plan includes new cycle parking at 37 schools across southwest London.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE - LETTER TO THE TRANSPORT SECRETARY
At the end of last week I wrote to Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps to ask him to meet with me to discuss the situation with Hammersmith Bridge. I impressed upon him the urgency of the matter, the slowness of the Taskforce's actions and the need for the Government to finally commit the necessary funding for repairs so work can be started at last. I will update you again when I have secured this meeting. You can see my letter to the Secretary here.
COVID SUPPORT INFORMATION FOR SEND CHILDREN IN RICHMOND AND KINGSTON
Achieving for Children has updated pages in the COVID 19 section on the Local Offer website. If you have a child with special educational needs or a disability, you can find the latest information about support on the pages below: Communications updates -Education and SEND Services during COVID1 Frequently Asked Questions Therapy Support Short Breaks Accessing support as a vulnerable family Easy Read and support resources about COVID19 Home learning resources and support for online learning
EU NATIONALS - UNDERSTANDING YOUR RIGHTS IN THE UK
EU nationals living in the borough are invited to attend an online webinar to help them understand Settled Status and their rights in the UK. The event will be delivered by Citizens Advice Richmond in partnership with Richmond Council.
The virtual event will be held on 27 January at 6pm. Attendees will be able to find out more about how to apply for Settled Status and their rights to live, work and access social entitlements e.g. health care. They will also look at how residents and their children can become British citizens.
SUPERMARKETS ASKED TO IMPROVE THEIR COVID-19 MEASURES
Richmond Council has written to all of the major supermarkets in the Borough to ask them to increase efforts to make sure that their staff and customers are safe. Over the past few weeks, there have been reports of supermarket staff and customers not following the rules around face coverings or social distancing. See the full letter here.
To help offer additional reassurance to supermarket staff, those who are residents in Richmond upon Thames can access regular asymptomatic testing. This is available to book online here.
SUPPORT HUB READY TO ASSIST RESIDENTS
The Kingston Stronger Together hub is in full operation supporting people in need with their food and medicine deliveries, including those who are shielding or self isolating and who don't have support from friends or family. If you need any kind of assistance, please see the information here.
All of the Council's Covid-19 advice and information can be found here.
LOCAL SHOPPING APP COMING TO KINGSTON
Kingston Council is teaming up with ShopAppy.com - the ‘One Stop Online Local shop’ - to provide borough shops and other businesses with an online profile and an easy-to-use e-commerce platform.
This will enable customers to browse stock and services and purchase from multiple businesses, and arrange click and collect, all with one transaction. Kingston Council will be funding the service for borough-based businesses for the first year.
Businesses wanting to sign up to be a part of the service can find more information here.