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Richmond Park News: 18 December 2020

I learned this afternoon in a briefing for London MPs that the Covid-19 infection rate in London has continued to climb this week. With more areas of England being added to Tier 3, the picture looks very worrying indeed. Richmond's case rate is up to 214/100,000, and Kingston's is up to 340. Both of these numbers are sharp rises from last week, with most cases concentrated among secondary pupils. These are against the London average of 325 and the England average of 206. We absolutely must come together as Londoners now to regain control of the virus.


To make young people aware of the impact they can have in helping to slow down the virus, Kingston Council Leader Caroline Kerr and local teenagers have made this short but moving video about the importance of keeping safe this Christmas. I am asking parents in both Richmond and Kingston to forward or show it to their children and ask them to forgo seeing their friends again until they are back at school. It is vitally important that we stop the transmission between families before we enter Christmas bubbles next week.


I encourage everyone to stick to virtual social contact until we are past Christmas and our r rate improves again. It wasn't what we would have planned, but we managed to have fun at our virtual Richmond Park staff Christmas party this week, while staying safe!


If you are looking for someone to talk to over the holidays, I also want to highlight the work of the NHS Volunteer Responders Christmas Together campaign. You don't have to give practical help to be a part of this effort to support people at Christmas. They have a "check in and chat" programme where you could offer help to others by phone.



VISITS TO SMALL BUSINESSES IN KEW TODAY


I spent an enjoyable afternoon checking in with local businesses in Kew today, visiting their shops and talking with owners, managers and staff. I stopped in to Shoe Station, Kew Pharmacy, Kew Bookshop, Olivers, Kew Gardener, Westbrook hair stylists, Squires Food and Wine, Zia Elze, Garden Fish and Chips and IT Specialist. The retailers told me about their issues with landlords and supplies during the pandemic, the ways the have worked to help the community through it, and their concerns over what the end of the Brexit transmission period may bring. I wish them all the best for 2021, and will be doing all I can to support small businesses next year.




ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING IN THE COMMUNITY


One in three people with coronavirus do not have any symptoms and can pass on the virus without knowing it. Asymptomatic testing is a key weapon in the fight against the virus. To get the most out of it, uptake of testing and compliance with self-isolation for those who test positive need to be high.


Some people in Richmond and Kingston boroughs are being offered asymptomatic testing already, either because of contact with confirmed cases or because they live in hotspot areas in the boroughs. If you are offered a test, I encourage you to take it even if you don't have symptoms or know you have been exposed to the virus. This testing is vital to contain the virus.


From 4 January, schools will have the necessary supplies to test all teachers once a week and to test close contacts of confirmed cases among the staff and pupils in years 11-13, on a daily basis for seven days. This is to prevent staff and pupils in exam years from having to self-isolate. Later in January and February this will be extended to the other year groups in secondary schools and after that to primary schools.


If you are asked to isolate, you can apply for the £500 NHS Test and Trace Support Payment for those on low incomes.



COVID-19 VACCINE


I was very pleased to hear from a constituent on a surgery call this afternoon that he had just returned from receiving his first vaccine injection; he reported that the experience was extremely positive – well organised, well staffed and very quick. I want to offer my grateful thanks to all those involved in rolling out the vaccine across the constituency and to wish them all the best for the coming months.


I am hugely relieved that the Covid-19 vaccine is now being offered in hospitals and by GPs. Different GP surgeries have different start dates and schedules, depending on their equipment, staff and premises. I know they are doing all they can to get the vaccine out as quickly as possible.

The vaccine is being given first to people aged 80 and over who have a hospital appointment in the next few weeks, people who live or work in care homes, and health care workers at high risk. The vaccine will be offered more widely, and at other locations, as soon as possible. Please wait to be contacted; the NHS will let you know when it's your turn to have the vaccine.


The order in which people will be offered the vaccine is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). You can read the latest JCVI advice on priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccination on GOV.UK for more information.



HEATHROW THIRD RUNWAY


I was dismayed to hear this week that the Supreme Court has overturned the High Court's ruling that plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport breached our environmental agreements. When we are in the middle of a climate emergency, when aviation demand has dropped significantly, and when the UK is about to host the UN Climate Conference, spending money on expanding an airport seems indefensible. I am calling for the Prime Minister to firmly rule out a third runway at Heathrow. We know he personally objects to the project and if we are achieve net-zero carbon emissions he must cancel this expansion.



JOIN ME FOR MY FIRST VIRTUAL COFFEE MORNING OF 2021


I will be hosting my next Virtual Coffee Morning on Wednesday 6 January. If you fancy joining me and some of your fellow constituents for an informal chat about issues national and local, please sign up here. Coffee mornings are every other Wednesday at 10:00am.



NEW SUPPORT RESOURCE - MY PICKLE WEBSITE


My Pickle is a not-for-profit organisation increasing access to support for people facing big life challenges via their website mypickle.org. My Pickle is a free, public directory of trusted support resources available nationally. Since 2019, with input from hundreds of volunteers, over 1,750 resources have been crowdsourced, vetted and added to the free website. Resources cover all big life topics such as health, relationships and money. To find support for yourself or someone you know visit mypickle.org.



MENTAL HEALTH HELP FROM MIND


Mind, the national mental health charity, has written to remind me that the Christmas period may be particularly difficult for many of us this year. They have developed specific information on looking after your wellbeing during the festive period, which provides tips on how to cope as well as suggestions for supporting others.

They also wanted to share their latest coronavirus information resources, which include information about looking after your wellbeing, particularly during the winter, and information specifically for young people who are worried about coronavirus and want to know how to cope with changes to their lives.


If you would like any additional support, their Infoline provides information on a range of topics and types of mental health problems, including where to get help, and medication and alternative treatments. They can also help find details of support available in your local area.


Lines are open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday on 0300 123 3393



RICHMOND NEWS


CAMPAIGN AGAINST HUNGER


Richmond Council has joined a London-wide campaign to drive much-needed support to food charities and local food hubs this winter. The