With shops, personal care businesses, pubs and restaurants open again, we are really seeing light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel now. I am delighted that so many small businesses in my constituency at last get to serve customers on their premises, and I look forward to being able to shop local for more than groceries again. If you are a local business owner who is reopening this week and you would like me to help you spread the word, please send a picture or a video to me at email@example.com, and I will be very happy to share your news on social media. I will also feature as many of you as possible in this week's Community Spotlight.
Please remember, if you are going out, that we still need to be sensible. Hands - Face - Space and the rule of six still apply even if you have been vaccinated. Let's all do our part to make sure that the reopening this week does not cause a rise in local Covid-19 numbers.
While enjoying the positives of falling case rates and lockdown easing, I have been sad to see so many annual religious holidays observed alone for the second time this year. My Jewish constituents have had two Passovers in lockdown, Christians have celebrated their second Easter at home and now my Muslim constituents have begun another Ramadan unable to break their daily fast with extended family or friends.
I would like to mark the beginning of Ramadan by highlighting the enormous contribution of Muslim communities in London during the Covid-19 pandemic. From working on the front lines of the health and care service, to making record donations to charity during Ramadan last year, to offering local mosques as vaccination centres, Muslim communities have made an enormous contribution to fighting the pandemic and protecting vulnerable Londoners. I had a meeting with Kingston Mosque recently and was pleased to hear how members had been supporting each other during the lockdown. On behalf of all of your fellow Richmond Park residents, I thank my Muslim constituents for your efforts over the past year.
The Muslim Council of Britain is offering advice for Ramadan here. They are assuring British Muslims that getting vaccinated does not break your fast, and that it is important that everyone gets a vaccine as soon as it is offered. The website suggests ways to connect with faith, family and friends virtually.
I know that people of every faith in Richmond Park will join me in praying that when Eid al-Fitr comes next month it will be the last religious holiday any of my constituents will observe in lockdown.
JOIN ME TONIGHT! PANEL DISCUSSION ON THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION AT 7:00pm I will be joined tonight by Daisy Cooper MP, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Education, and Ian Dodds, Director of Children's Services for Richmond and Kingston boroughs, for a panel discussion on the future of education after Covid-19.
I plan to talk to Daisy and Ian about the ways the landscape of education will be permanently changed by the pandemic. What positives will come out of this experience, and what lessons do we need to learn from it? How will schools cope with future challenges, and what can we do to support our children in their education going forward? The panel will also answer questions from attendees. You can sign up for this exciting event here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you decide to come after 4pm today.
FACE MASKS IN SCHOOLS
Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Standards, wrote to me this week about Covid-19 measures in schools. He said that although face coverings should continue to be worn in secondary school and college classrooms when students return after the Easter break, this requirement will end on May 17 if all goes to plan. Waiting until May 17 will allow the vaccination programme to reach everyone in priority groups one to nine with their first dose by the end of April, and and for those individuals to build up protection from the vaccine, before any change is implemented.
After May 17 staff should continue to wear face coverings in communal areas, but pupils will not have to do so. The recommendations for the use of face coverings in primary schools and early years settings remain unchanged.
I know how unpleasant it is for teachers and secondary pupils to wear masks in the classroom, and I thought my constituents would be relieved to hear that an end to this is in sight.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE UPDATE
Some of my constituents may be interested in an article in the New Civil Engineer magazine last week. The article contains some informative technical detail, which I regularly receive questions about from constituents. You can read it in full here. I was particularly interested in the sections about the Ritblat temporary bridge bringing down the cost of the main bridge repairs. A commitment by the Government to a full funding package for both the temporary and permanent repairs is not only the quickest way forward, it is also the least expensive.
At 7:00pm tomorrow, Wednesday April 14, Parliament will hold an adjournment debate on Hammersmith Bridge, hosted by Fleur Anderson, the Putney MP. In advance of the debate, I would encourage any of you who are on Twitter to tweet constructive comments and concerns to both @transportgovuk (Department for Transport) and @redditchrachel (Rachel Maclean MP, Minister for the Future of Transport and Decarbonisation.) You can watch the debate on Parliament Live television here.
THE ASTRAZENECA VACCINE I would like to assure concerned residents that the European Medicines Agency and the UK medicines regulator (MHRA) both confirmed last week that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risk of side effects. Around four people develop a very rare condition involving blood clots for every one million doses of AZ vaccine given. This condition can also occur naturally, and clotting problems are a common complication of the COVID-19 infection. The clots can be treated if medical attention is sought when symptoms arise.
Advice to adults over 50: If you have not received your first dose, please book one here and take whichever vaccine you are offered.
Advice to adults aged 30 to 50: The benefits of vaccination in protecting you against the serious consequences of COVID-19 outweigh the risk of this rare condition.
Advice to younger people: The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that it is preferable for people under 30 to have a different vaccine. The Government has assured us that there will be enough doses of alternative vaccines for younger people to have them instead of AZ. However, if you have considered the benefits and risks you can still go ahead with the AZ vaccination if you wish to.
Advice on the second dose of the AZ vaccine: If you have already had a first dose of AZ vaccine without suffering any serious side effects you should complete the course.
Although incredibly rare, these are the side effects to look out for, from around 4 days to 4 weeks after vaccination. You should seek medical advice urgently if you experience:
a new, severe headache which is not helped by usual painkillers or is getting worse, seems worse when lying down or bending over, or is accompanied by blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, difficulty with your speech, weakness, drowsiness or seizures
new, unexplained pinprick bruising or bleeding
shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain
EU CITIZENS -- APPLY FOR SETTLED STATUS NOW
I urge all of the EU citizens residing in Richmond Park who haven't done so to apply for Settled Status as soon as possible. The deadline for application for this is June 30, 2021. If you think you may want to continue living here, please apply as soon as you can. Local officials believe there are EU citizens in the area who have not applied yet, and we do not want to find that you have lost the right to remain here. You can apply here.
CAR PARK PAYPOINT SCAM
I'm sorry to say that I have received several new reports of parking meter bank card fraud in the area.
The scam involves fraudsters distracting victims and stealing their bank cards by pretending that the parking machine has swallowed their card.
Motorists are reminded that it is impossible for parking machines to retain bank cards. Pay and Display machines are manufactured so that cards can only be inserted part of the way. If your card goes missing, you have been a victim of theft and should immediately cancel your card.
Richmond and Kingston Councils have an alternative system for cashless parking called RingGo, which lets you pay for your parking with a credit or debit card over the phone or using an app, rather than using a Pay and Display machine. You can even add time to your parking session without returning to your car. You can register to use the free RingGo service here.
RESTART GRANTS FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES
Richmond businesses can now apply for a Restart Grant to help them reopen safely as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. The new scheme is for non-essential retail and hospitality, leisure, accommodation, personal care, gym and sport businesses and is being administered via Richmond Council.
Grants of up to £6,000 will be paid to non-essential retail businesses and grants of up to £18,000 will be allocated to hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses.
Restart Grants are only available for businesses that pay business rates in the sectors mentioned and offer in-person services, where the main service and activity takes place in a fixed rate-paying premises. The scheme will close to applications on 30 June 2021. More information or to apply.
LIBRARIES OPEN AGAIN!
Seven of the borough’s main libraries are reopening this week for a limited 15-minute browsing and borrowing service. This includes:
· Castelnau Library (closed Thursdays)
· Ham Library (closed Thursdays)
Due to the Sheen Lane Centre also operating as a COVID-19 testing centre, browsing will not be available at East Sheen Library, however click and collect will continue to be provided.
Face coverings will be mandatory and social distancing measures will be in place. This means that people may have to queue outside the library. Following official advice, all returned books are being quarantined for 72 hours before being put back on shelves. In addition, there are a number of public computers that will be available at eight local libraries. These will need to be booked in advance by calling 020 8734 3308 during opening hours.
INDOOR POOLS REOPENING
Indoor pools and gyms at Pools on the Park and Shene Sports and Fitness Centre, are also reopening this week. To ensure social distancing our facilities will have a significantly reduced capacity and activities will be in timed sessions which ALL customers will be required to book onto in advance. In addition, whilst face coverings are not mandatory in sports centres, we politely request that all users do wear them in public areas e.g. reception. Bookings can be made the LBRUT app and by phone on 020 3772 2999.
BIKEABILITY FOR YEAR 5 AND 6 PUPILS, AND FAMILY CYCLE SKILLS!
Bikeability is a free service offered to Year 5 and 6 school children - four hours of training over 2 sessions that helps to build their confidence and skills. Now you can also build your skills and knowledge and learn as a family! The service is easy to access, and free for Kingston residents. One to one sessions for adults are also available. For more information about Bikeability, visit our website or enquire with your school. Find more information and book Family Cycle skills on our website.
VIRTUAL JOB CLUB AND WORK MATCH PROGRAMMES
The Virtual Job Club offers support and advice on employability related topics, including CV tips, interview advice, local job and training opportunities, info on how to apply for Universal Credit, as well as business start up support. Sign up to the sessions, which run on Tuesdays from 11am - 12pm, via the Kingston Libraries Eventbrite page.
Kingston residents looking for employment might also like to know about the Work Match Career Transition Programme. Work Match can help you find local jobs and training. Visit the website and see what opportunities are available.
LIBRARIES OPEN AGAIN
Kingston Libraries are open again for browsing and PC access, the community library service, and of course the digital offer. Library opening hours are:
Surbiton & New Malden Library: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday - 10am - 5pm
Hook & Chessington Library: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday - 10am - 5pm
Tudor Drive Library: Monday & Tuesday - 10am - 5pm
Kingston Library: Thursday & Friday - 10am - 5pm
HELP TRANSFORM KINGSTON BY PARTICIPATING IN PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT
Kingston Council is just over halfway through the first phase of the Transform Kingston public engagement around early proposals to redevelop the Kingfisher Leisure Centre, Cattle Market car park and Guildhall complex. Residents' comments will be invaluable as they progress to the design stage. This is only the initial engagement which will inform our early designs and there will be further engagement as the proposals evolve with lots of opportunity for residents to give feedback. But they want to hear from people across Kingston now, from all backgrounds and communities. You can participate by:
going to their website.