I'm relieved to report this week that the Covid-19 numbers are now all going in the right direction. Approximately 1.2 million Londoners have been vaccinated, which, combined with the lockdown, has allowed case rates, hospital admissions and deaths to fall across London. The picture varies from one borough to the next, though, with areas of significant concern in the northwest, including in nearby Ealing and Hounslow.
The NHS reports that Intensive Treatment Units in London hospitals are still operating at nearly double their intended capacities, because people are staying in hospital longer during this outbreak. So we still need to hold our course with the lockdown and maintain our social distancing and hygiene habits.
SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESSES
I spoke in the Chamber yesterday about the Towns Fund. I have concerns about the divisive way that this funding has been allocated and made my own proposals about how all businesses across the country can get support from the government as we move beyond lockdown. You can see my speech here
The southwest London NHS has asked me to assure my constituents that there is enough supply coming to all our vaccination sites to enable everyone over 70 to receive their first dose by 15 February, and that they are on target to do so. A new mass vaccination centre at the Stoop (the Harlequins' rugby stadium in Twickenham) opened yesterday. They also asked me to make these points:
The vaccines are safe and will give you the best protection against coronavirus.
The NHS will let you know when it is your turn to have a vaccine. Please don't contact the NHS for a vaccination before then, or turn up without an appointment.
It is especially important for social care staff to get their vaccinations when invited to do so. This will protect both the carer and their clients/patients.
The approved COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any foetal material, animal products or eggs.
VACCINE SCAM EMAILS
Some of my constituents have received fraudulent emails with the NHS logo on them inviting them to register for vaccination. If you get an email containing the text below, please forward it to Action Fraud at email@example.com, and then delete it. You can see more information about how to protect yourself from scam vaccination emails here. The fraudulent email some people have received starts:
"As part of the government’s coordinated response to Coronavirus, NHS is performing
selections for coronavirus vaccination on the basis of family genetics and medical history.
You have been selected to receive a Coronavirus Vaccination."
Remember: when arranging a vaccine, the NHS will NOT ask for:
your bank account or card details
your pin or banking password
copies of personal documents to prove your identity
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE VACCINES?
The Islamic Medical Council has produced an excellent set of "myth busters" about the Covid-19 vaccine. If you have any concerns about the vaccine, whether you are a person of this faith, another faith or none, I recommend looking for answers to your questions here.
JOIN ME FOR MY NEXT VIRTUAL COFFEE MORNING ON 10 FEBRUARY
If you would like to hear more about what I am doing in Parliament and the constituency, there are still a few spaces available for my next Virtual Coffee Morning. Please sign up on my website if you would like to join myself and some of your fellow residents for some informal conversation about local and national issues. You can book your place on these fortnightly events here.
SYMBOLS FOR DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING PEOPLE
One of my constituents has written to tell me that people with hearing impairments have started putting a sticker with one of these symbols on their face mask to alert anyone they speak to that they are deaf or hard of hearing.
Communicating with someone who is wearing a face covering is especially difficult for a person with a hearing impairment. A face mask reduces the volume and clarity of the speaker's voice. And even those with a mild impairment use some lip reading to help them understand. Not being able to see the other person's mouth means they can't use their eyes to supplement what they hear.
If you see someone wearing one of these stickers, or any other type of badge, sticker or lanyard that identifies them as hard of hearing, please be aware that they may struggle to understand you when you are wearing a face covering. Please try to speak up and speak clearly, and rephrase or repeat as needed. You can even write things down for them if they are really struggling. You can see a useful page of tips on communicating with people who are hard of hearing here.
If you are regularly in social contact with someone who is hard of hearing, many crafters sell deaf friendly face masks with a clear window over the mouth. You can search for them on etsy.com/uk
SCHEME TO AID VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC ABUSE ROLLED OUT NATIONALLY
The Ask for ANI scheme allows those at risk of or suffering from abuse to discreetly signal that they need help. By asking for ANI, (as in "May I speak to Annie?") a trained pharmacy worker will offer a private space where they can understand if the victim needs to speak to the police or would like help to access support services such as a national or local domestic abuse helplines.
As essential retailers based on high streets across the country, and with specially trained staff, pharmacies can provide a safe space for victims to sound an alarm if they are isolated at home with their abuser and unable to get help in another way. All 2300 Boots pharmacies are participating along with hundreds of independent pharmacies. You can see more information here.
NEW GRANT AVAILABLE FOR RICHMOND BUSINESSES
The COVID-19 Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) scheme has been launched by Richmond Council – benefiting not only those operating from a business premises, but also those based at home.
Grants are available for businesses that were open for business on the 16th October 2020, and then although not mandated to close, were still financially impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions. To qualify, businesses must not have been forced to close in Tiers 2 and 3 or lockdown. For example, dry cleaners, local convenience stores and other businesses classed as essential retail will benefit from the new ARG, as long as their business income was affected. Businesses that supply hospitality retail or leisure businesses may also be able to benefit.
Additionally, businesses operating out of domestic properties that have fixed on-going non-property related business costs will also be eligible as long as they can show loss of business-related income due to the impact of the Tier restrictions. Businesses have until 31 March to apply for a one-off grant. See all the details of available grants here.
INFORMATION ON THE VACCINATION PROGRAMME FOR VOLUNTARY GROUPS
The southwest London NHS commissioning group is holding an event to explain the local vaccination effort to voluntary and community groups on 11 February.
If you are interested in learning more about the local rollout, please join them for COVID-19 vaccinations in Richmond: What you need to know - London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.
LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH VIRTUAL DISCUSSION
To celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month, Richmond residents are invited to a virtual event on Tuesday 23 February to explore LGBTQ+ contributions in Richmond upon Thames.
The event will be hosted by Richmond Council, Healthwatch Richmond and OUT Richmond, and will focus on ‘acknowledging the past, understanding the present and improving the future’. Residents and community groups are invited to take part in the discussions on LGBTQ+ history in the borough, the access to health and social care provision, the current state of LGBTQ+ groups locally, and next steps.
The event is free and will take place via Zoom from 6.00pm - 7.30pm. Please register to attend.
KINGSTON COUNCIL PUBLISHES PROPOSED 2021/2022 RECOVERY BUDGET
Kingston's proposed budget sets out how Kingston Council will continue to support residents through COVID-19 and invest in the future of the borough. The budget sets out an ambitious plan to transform and reshape services to support those who need it most. Find out more.
LAND REVIEW SURVEY
The Council is at the early stages of developing new policies that will influence how land and business space is used across the borough over the next 22 years. This will impact on the type and quality of space available for businesses to use. They want to understand local businesses' needs now and in the future.
If you own or use business premises, or operate a business from you home, the Council invites you to contribute your views and experiences through this short survey to help shape how the borough supports business and communities in the future.
LGBT+ HISTORY MONTH EVENTS
This year's LGBTQ+ History Month is focusing on 'Body, Mind, Spirit'. Take a look at Kingston's LGBT Forum for local events and support, and find details of lots of great events celebrating LGBT+ History Month at lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk.
RESOURCES FOR KINGSTON PARENTS
Kingston Council’s Cultural Services has created a Home Learning Guide to support parents who are teaching their children during lockdown. This programme of virtual events, workshops, and activities for children, young people and families is available throughout February.
If at any time during your child's first five years you have concerns around behaviour, development, feeding or anything that is causing you anxiety, the Health Visiting service is here to help. The service continues to support families both online and face-to-face across the borough. To get in contact with the service call 020 8339 8000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you need some help finding reading material for your child, why not use the Ask a Librarian service? Call 020 8547 5006 and book a phone call to have a chat about books and get answers to your questions. You can even find out more about local support available to you.
The Ask a Librarian service is for adults too. Please spread the word about it to any vulnerable friends or relatives who may be unable to access help online and who would benefit from this support.