This has been a terrible time for our community and my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones or are ill and lonely. Thank you to the many volunteers who have worked so hard to protect and support our most vulnerable and isolated, and to our NHS staff, care workers and key workers in Batley and Spen working long days in difficult circumstances to keep us safe.

This week, after 50 days of lockdown to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government announced updated rules for tackling this crisis.

The following changes will be in place from Wednesday 13th May and while they may seem confusing in places, we must all do our bit and follow the guidelines to keep the most vulnerable in our community safe.

Public spaces / exercise / outdoor activities

From Wednesday, you will now be able to spend more time outdoors, such as sitting outside enjoying some fresh air, going for a picnic, or sunbathing.

You can meet one person from a different household outdoors, as long as you maintain social distancing rules of staying two metres apart.

You can take unlimited outdoor exercise, and also use sports facilities such as tennis courts, basketball courts or golf courses, with members of your household or one person from a different household. You will also be able to visit garden centres and travelling to an outdoor space is no longer restricted.

The following activities are still not permitted: visiting family and friends in their homes; going to the gym, swimming pool, or indoor sports court; using a playground or outdoor gym; visiting a private or ticketed attraction; gathering in a group of more than two people – except for funerals, at work, in emergencies or supporting the vulnerable, to fulfil legal obligations or to move house.

You should stay at home as much as possible, only leaving home to exercise or go outdoors, to go shopping, for work if you cannot work from home, or for medical purposes.

Vulnerable groups, the over 70s and care homes

If you are aged 70 and over, you are still advised to minimise contact with anyone outside your household. If you do go out more, make sure to observe social distancing at all times.

Anyone who has been advised to shield by the NHS or their GP should continue to shield until at least the end of June, including those aged 70 and over.

In care homes, the Government has issued detailed guidance to help admit and care for residents safely and protect care home staff. This includes isolation procedures, PPE and infection control training, cleaning and how to provide personal care safely.

Going to work

Employers should make every effort to support working from home, including providing IT equipment as they have been already. Where work can only be done in the workplace, the Government has set out tailored guidelines for employers to protect their workforce and customers while continuing to trade or getting their business back up and running.

The new guidelines apply to essential retail workers such as:

– Supermarkets

– Those working in construction and manufacturing

– Those working in laboratories and research facilities

– Those administering takeaways and deliveries at restaurants and cafes

– Tradespeople, cleaners, nannies, and others who work in people’s homes

– Those who facilitate trade and transport goods.

Non-essential retail, restaurants, pubs, bars, gyms and leisure centres will remain closed.

Workers’ rights

Employers and staff should discuss and agree working arrangements. Where work cannot be done at home employers should take clear, practical steps to help protect workers and create safe working spaces. If you remain concerned your employer is not taking all practical steps to promote social distancing you can report this to Kirklees Council here or to the Health and Safety Executive here.

The Government is urging employers to be pragmatic and discuss arrangements for working with their staff, and to take responsible decisions and listen to the concerns of workers. If you need advice about work disputes you can contact ACAS on 0800 4700622 or by visiting their website here, or join a Union here  or call the TUC direct on 020 7636 4030.

If you need help from me, please email me on tracy.brabin.mp@parliament.uk or ring my office on 01924 900036.

Public transport

The Government is encouraging people to cycle or walk to work where possible. Before travelling on public transport, you should consider if the travel is absolutely necessary.

You are encouraged to where a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible. The Government is encouraging the use of scarves or other homemade coverings, rather than buying medical or surgical masks – these should be reserved for health and care workers.

Schools and childcare

The Government is telling schools to get ready to open for more children on 1st June. It is aiming for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in school in smaller class sizes from this point. The Government’s aim is for all primary school pupils to go back to school for one month before the summer break.

Secondary schools and colleges should also prepare to open for Year 10 and Year 12 students who sit exams next summer, in support of their home learning.

The Government is working to develop new safety standards and guidance for how schools can operate safely, including smaller class sizes.

Borders and international visitors

These measures will not come into force on Wednesday 13th May, but will be enforced in due course.

When people enter the UK, they will be asked to provide their contact details and details of their accommodation, and to self-isolate in their accommodation for 14 days – other than those on a shortlist of exemptions.

This includes both foreign visitors coming to the UK, and British nationals returning to the country from abroad.

Enforcement

West Yorkshire Police and Kirklees Council have the powers to enforce the requirements set out by the Government if people do not comply. If you are in breach of the law you may be instructed to go home, leave and area or disperse, and they may instruct you to take steps to stop your children breaking these rules. The police can also take you home or arrest you if they think it is necessary.

If the police believe you have broken the law – or you refuse to follow their instructions – they can issue you a fine of £100, up from the previous fine of £60. This is reduced to £50 if paid within two weeks. The fine amount doubles for every offence you commit to a maximum fine of £3,200.

Key contacts

If you need any help or support, please contact the following groups.

Kirklees Covid-19 Community Response: 01484 226919

Citizens Advice Bureau: 03444 111444

Samaritans: 116 123

Royal Voluntary Service: 0330 555 0310

National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

Childline: 0800 1111

For the latest Government advice you can visit its Coronavirus hub here.

If you believe you may have contracted Coronavirus, you can check your symptoms via NHS 111’s online symptom checker, here.

If you need support in getting access to food or would like to donate food or volunteer with deliveries, you can contact Batley Food Bank by emailing info@batleyfoodbank.org.uk or calling 01924 474999.

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