Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Newspaper column 4 March 2020 - The Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Earlier last week I was delighted to be re-appointed as a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) at the Department of Health and Social Care. I have been appointed to a new role, which could be seen as a promotion, as I am now PPS to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, and with this comes increased responsibility.

At the moment the top priority of the Department of Health and Social Care is protecting the public from the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

As a result, in my role supporting the Health Secretary, I have been attending regular meetings with the Ministerial team on this subject, in order to keep up to date as this virus developments both internationally and nationally.

Understandably there is a great deal of concern and many questions among the public. I thought it would be good to provide an update and some facts about Coronavirus (COVID-19) in this column to provide reassurance and up to date advice.

A coronavirus is a type of virus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world. Typical symptoms of coronavirus include fever and a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In many ways it is similar to the more common types of flu we see in this country every winter.

Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China.

It does appear to be a strain of virus that spreads quickly and widely through direct contact. It has now spread globally and in terms of the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care is providing daily figures on how many people have been tested for it in the UK, along with the results.

As of writing this column, for example, on 29 February at 9am, a total of 10,483 people had been tested in the UK, of which 10,460 were confirmed negative and 23 positive.

Despite the huge media interest in the Coronavirus then, the actual numbers of people who have been tested for it or actually have it in the UK are very small.

Of course, we do need to do everything that we possibly can in order to stop the spread of this virus.

The NHS has issued advice on travellers to certain countries which have had Coronavirus about self-isolation, which you can find here:

Otherwise the NHS recommends people follow normal good hygiene rules in order to prevent spread of germs, such as covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze, putting used tissues in the bin immediately, washing your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available and trying to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
If anyone suspects they may have come into contact with someone who has coronavirus through traveling or in this country then the advice is very clear. People should self isolate by staying at home. They should then call the NHS helpline 111 for further advice. People should not attend their GP or hospital unless instructed to do so by the NHS helpline. It is important this advice is followed as it is one of the ways we can limit the virus being spread further.

The situation with Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to develop and I will continue to work closely with Ministerial colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that we as a country are best prepared to deal with it.

My team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or contact me on either 01726 829379 or Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: