Westminister View 18th March 2020

Coronavirus is an ever accelerating, widespread crises. The latest announcement from the government concedes that this is not just a medical event, but an economic event of unprecedented proportions.

With each announcement, more parts of economy shut down and it is right that the government has announced a hugely significant package of assistance. Whilst it is wide ranging, there are gaps in the support – most notably for those in rented properties and for charities. I and my colleagues are pressing the government on all these issues and financial help will come where it is needed, and as quickly as possible.

There is a lot of advice going around and it seems everyone has an opinion on this issue; how to keep it under control, the technicalities of flattening the distribution curve, and the pros and cons of herd immunity against economic imperatives.

The reality is, only a handful of us are proper epidemiologists. Despite one of my colleagues famously saying we had all had enough of experts, this really is one for the experts.

With such a fast-moving situation, advice will change and be modified to reflect the latest development. That is why the best place to get advice is from government websites.

If you have any concerns that relate to anything medical, in the first instance, check

www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

This will give all the advice you need, including when to call 111

For all other advice, including what is going on with regards business and wider society, you need to look at

www.gov.uk/coronavirus

These two sites will give you all the latest advice, updated on a continuing basis, giving everything that people need, or signposting the way to other advice. Given the seriousness of this disease (which most of us can get over reasonably quickly, but for a minority proves fatal) it is important to be up to date not just for our own safety, but for the safety of those around us.

Which of course brings the question of what will happen to Parliament. I can see the absurdity of 400 people packed into a cramped room, all agreeing that social distancing is the way forward. I’m avoiding a packed chamber. But the government needs to be held to account and whilst we have shut down all but the essential parts of Parliament, it is right that it continues.