LACK OF COVID-19 TESTING CAPACITY
Statistics released this week for the COVID-19 test and trace system in England showed that over 18,000 new people tested positive in the week through to 9 September. Less than 75% of close contacts were reached and turnaround times for tests were very long too. Many constituents have been completely unable to get tests despite having Covid-19 symptoms.
The lack of testing capacity will soon be preventing large numbers of healthcare workers and teachers from going to work, leaving vital services and schools short of staff and at risk of closure.
Given the urgency of the situation, I joined my colleague Munira Wilson, the MP for Twickenham, and Gareth Roberts, the Richmond Council Leader, in writing to Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health, demanding that he come clean about the situation and get it sorted before we end up back in full lockdown. You can see our letter here:
This week marks National Hygiene Week and today I visited The Hygiene Bank in Hampton HYGIENE WEEK
This is Hygiene Week, and I visited Boots with my colleague Munira Wilson today to make a donation to the Hygiene Bank. The Hygiene Bank has various collection points where the public can donate all sorts of toiletries, which they distribute to charity partners in the local area, including food banks and charities that support young families and children and others who are vulnerable. I'd like to encourage all of you to spot a Hygiene Bank in your local high street and donate. Please visit www.thehygienebank.com to find your nearest drop-off point.
Munira and I also submitted an Early Day Motion on this. You can see it here:
EXEMPTIONS TO THE RULE OF SIX
A number of residents have been in touch this week asking for clarifications on the Rule of Six, which was introduced on Monday. The rule says that we may not socialise in groups of more than six, but there are exemptions to this. Exemptions include:
work (either voluntary or paid)
registered childcare, education or training settings
supervised activities for children, including wraparound care, youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups
support to a vulnerable person
emergency assistance, or to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm
arrangements for children who do not live in the same household as both their parents
attending court or jury service
elite sporting competition and training
religious and belief-based life cycle ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals, for up to 30 people. This only covers the ceremonies, not celebrations of these events.
organised sport or exercises classes or licensed outdoor physical activity (but not informal exercising with family or friends)
formally organised support groups
protests, if organised in compliance with COVID-19 Secure guidance
You can see all of the guidance on the new rule here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-meeting-with-others-safely-social-distancing/coronavirus-covid-19-meeting-with-others-safely-social-distancing
I was very sorry to learn this week that three years after the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people lost their lives, only a third (155 out of 455) of high-rise buildings with Grenfell-style flammable cladding due to be fixed by now have had their cladding replaced with a safe alternative.
In a report published this week, the Public Accounts Committee said it is imperative that the deadline for works on the remaining high-rise blocks to be completed (the end of 2021) be met. The funds available in the Building Safety Fund to fix dangerous cladding, however, are only a third of what is needed to make these buildings safe. Even if it is met, there are a number of other serious shortcomings exposed by the Grenfell disaster that need to be addressed:
The British system of building safety regulation has not been fit for purpose for many years. Successive failings have left a legacy of problems which extend far beyond the immediate need to remove dangerous cladding.
The Government has no plans to support residents or social landlords to meet the costs of replacing dangerous cladding in buildings below 18 metres, of providing ‘waking watches’, or of fixing other serious defects brought to light by post-Grenfell inspections.
Leaseholders across the country are in legal limbo, unable to sell their properties, and facing huge bills.
The Government has no knowledge of whether any of the 40,000 care homes, sheltered housing and hospitals below 18 metres in height are clad with unsafe material.
The Government has a great deal of work to do to ensure that a Grenfell-type fire never happens again, and to protect homeowners and tenants from financial liabilities incurred because of years of Government inaction on fire safety regulation.
LONDON VOTER REGISTRATION WEEK THIS WEEK
This week is London Voter Registration Week. Registering to vote is easy and takes five minutes. To register to vote in London, you must be 16 years old or older, a British, Irish, Commonwealth or EU citizen, and have a London address.
If you aren't on the electoral roll already, get out your National Insurance number and go to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
Make sure your voice is heard during elections, especially the important London Mayor and GLA elections next year.
JOIN ME FOR A VIRTUAL COFFEE MORNING
I was pleased to be joined by a lovely group of constituents at my first Virtual Coffee Morning this week. I was happy to have a chance to update them on what I was doing and chat with them about their concerns, both local and national. In a wide ranging conversation we discussed: volunteering, green agriculture, Hammersmith Bridge, vaccines and getting stuck into local politics. Virtual coffee mornings will be happening every other Wednesday at 10:00am. You can book onto one here: www.saraholneymp.org.uk/events
TRAVEL THE WORLD AT KEW GARDENS
Kew Gardens is inviting visitors to experience the world in Kew this autumn, saying:
'Bask in the glory of the Californian summer with our Redwood Grove. Get your Spanish holiday fix with our Mediterranean Garden. Adventure around East Asia with our Japanese Garden or experience the Himalayas with our incredible Rhododendron Dell.
Let the powerful fragrances of the Chinese Grove transport you thousands of miles away, or if you're the adventurous type, explore the humid forests of Madagascar in our tropical glasshouse. Holidays might look a little different this year, but the scents and sights of Kew Gardens can whisk you away.'
The world awaits you until 16 October 2020 at https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens/whats-on/travel-the-world-at-kew You will need to book in advance to visit Kew Gardens.
SAVE THE ARTS ON RICHMOND COUNCIL'S WEEKLY PODCAST
Cllr Jim Millard is joined by Lesley Bossine from the Landmark Arts Centre and Paul Miller from the Orange Tree Theatre, to talk about how the pandemic has forced them to batten down the hatches and whether these treasured local institutions will be able to survive.
KINGSTON UNIVERSITY REOPENS
Kingston University has reopened, and Kingston University's Vice-Chancellor has sent this message to the local community:
'As we welcome students and staff back to our campuses, I want to reassure you that the safety of our students, staff and our local community has been, and remains, our absolute priority. I understand many of our residents may have concerns about the start of term so I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on what we are doing as a university to manage this safely and responsibly.'