This weekend, the need for us to continue to do all we can stop the spread of the virus and #StayAtHome remains the most important message.
News that the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have contracted Coronavirus, brings into stark focus the fact that this dreadful disease can affect any one of us and why we must apply social distancing. These are exceptional circumstances and the number of people in Newham being tested positive for coronavirus is rising at an alarming rate – 195 as of today, a rise of 48 since yesterday.
It has been a week of rapidly moving events. Since Monday’s new restrictions placed by the government; at the Council we immediately put in place a series of protective measures and the full details of changes to services can be found here: www.newham.gov.uk’servicestatus.
We’ve also had the announcement of the NHS Nightingale field hospital that will open in Newham soon, and the launch mid-week of the #HelpNewham network of local hubs across the community neighbourhoods. They will be the hubs through which we’ll distribute food, prescriptions and other essential items so that our most vulnerable residents are supported; nor isolated as they include a borough-wide telephone chat service. We’ve had a fantastic response and my thanks to everyone stepping forward to support this crucial effort.
On Monday, I joined 22 other council leaders in urging the government to support workers who are self-employed and have little to fall back on. So the Chancellor’s announcement on Thursday, of a new self-employed income support scheme is a welcomed step, which is a welcomed measure to help the self-employed, but a small step in response to the economic hardship
Over the past three weeks, I’ve been urgently working with senior colleagues at the Council to deal with the biggest public health crisis this country, and the world, has faced.
The effect of the coronavirus pandemic on our daily lives is exceptional. We know the health impact has the potential to be deadly and we know the financial impact will be devastating for many of our residents and small businesses in Newham.
The scale of the impending unemployment surge as a result of coronavirus is clear in official figures. These show that in the last nine days alone, 477,000 people have applied for universal benefit. That’s more applications than the entire year of 2019.
We know that more needs to be done, that’s why we are working with other Labour leaders and the Labour Party shadow team, plus the Mayor of London to urge government to unlock the money made available to small businesses urgently; and address outstanding issues and needs of workers, including the thousands of Newham residents that are in insecure work or zero-hour contracts.
We are also urging the government to give Council’s more money to deal with the impact of this pandemic. Supporting workers and businesses in Newham is an important part of our response to coronavirus, as is continuing our Community Wealth Building ambitions during this crisis and being ready to rebuild our local economy when we can.
At the council, we will continue to do all we can to help our residents who are struggling; that’s why yesterday I announced that next week we’ll be providing 100% Council Tax Reduction Relief to our 19,500 lowest income households - you can read more in the section below.
The week ended with news that the Government has asked all councils in England to house rough sleepers off the streets by the weekend to ‘protect their health and stop wider transmission, particularly in hot spot areas’. Rough sleepers are a highly vulnerable group in our community that we are prioritising, and they need our care during this outbreak.
We have been working hard to implement an emergency action plan and provided self-contained accommodation for rough sleepers, housing 65 people to date in Newham; but the numbers keep rising. That’s why the Council sought and were granted legal permission to be able to close Stratford Shopping Centre overnight between 8pm and 5am.
The step has been considered necessary on public health grounds and is part of the Council’s response to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, following an order by the government asking all local authorities in England to house rough sleepers off the streets by this weekend. See the statement that I published a short while ago in the section below.
As you settle in for the evening, please keep following the NHS guidance: wash your hands for 20 seconds frequently; minimise social contact with others; work from home where possible; stop social gatherings with other people including in parks, recreational areas and places of worship. Only travel if it is essential and keep up with the social distance measures, which are vital.
For all the latest and best advice please visit:
• Newham Council: www.newham.gov.uk/Coronavirus
• NHS Guidance: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
• NHS 111: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19
Stay safe and well.
Yours in solidarity,
Labour Mayor of Newham
Follow what I'm up to on Twitter: @rokhsanafiaz