Over the past few weeks, I have spoken with many constituents regarding the Coronavirus outbreak, particularly those in self-isolation or who own a business in our town. I have also been asked about my own availability - today and in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Being Southport’s MP during this difficult period puts me in a position to connect residents, businesses, the Council, and our hospital, with the government. It also places upon me a responsibility to ensure that all these stakeholders have the advice, support, and guidance that they need.
I am in daily contact with the Chief Executives of both Southport Hospital and Sefton Council about local COVID-19 cases and their capacity to treat the problem effectively. I am also working with colleagues in Parliament to ensure those updates are listened to by the government, and I will make sure both have the resources they need to tackle this pandemic.
I have also spoken with the Chancellor about the support that is being offered to small businesses, particularly those operating the hospitality sector (hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs, and nightclubs). These businesses form the economic backbone of any seaside town, as is especially the case in Southport. Following the advice issued by the government to avoid group gatherings as much as possible, before the further advice that these businesses were to shut their doors, I understood that businesses were concerned that the government's advice was originally voluntary, and therefore they were not able to claim on their insurance. I lobbied the government to adjust their position so that those businesses affected could make a claim, and I am continuously reviewing government advice to ensure businesses are well-informed during this crisis. The mandatory closures will of course be disappointing, but the decision was based upon the most up to date health and scientific advice. Any business who wants speak with me about their options are welcome to get in touch.
The British Retail Consortium recently published a statement signed by all major supermarket chains in the UK. In that statement, the chains re-iterated that there is more than enough produce to serve everybody, and that panic-buying will only lead to shortages for others. The items most in demand include toilet roles, sanitisers, painkillers, and dry goods (rice and pasta, for example). Most supermarkets have already taken action to minimise disruption. Some have imposed per-customer limits on certain items, whilst others have moved staff from warehouse roles to shop floor roles. All major chains who run delivery services have stated that they are running them at full capacity. The Government are actively looking at ways in which we can support our supermarkets, and as a former supermarket manager I am contributing what experience I have to ensure we get it right.
I have written to all supermarket managers in Southport asking them to put in place adequate provision to prevent customers stockpiling products, which has left many residents in our town simply unable to purchase essential items. Whilst some residents will have no difficulty traveling between supermarkets when items are out-of-stock, there are a significant number of residents in our town who are elderly, or unable to drive, and who travel by bus or taxi. Please bare those residents in mind when you are visiting a supermarket store.
Many of our smaller local businesses have already responded to this crisis in a very proactive way. A number of shops are now offering a delivery service to ensure people get the supplies they need whilst self-isolating, and many restaurants are have set up a delivery service, so local residents can get the great food they make straight to their door. I have published a list of these shops and restaurants on my website, and have mentioned some on social media. If you work at or run a local business and are happy for me to add your details, please get in touch.
Earlier this week, and following government advice, I took the necessary decision to suspend all of my upcoming face-to-face constituency surgeries for the foreseeable future. This is to protect both my office staff and the general public. Whilst this was disappointing for me to do, I will continue to help all those who ask for it – through email, phone, and social media - and I will be holding frequent telephone surgeries to speak directly to those constituents who need their MP.
Moving forward, we should all listen to and follow the advice of the Government and NHS. I have dedicated a section of my website to providing this information, alongside updating residents as to what I am doing. You can find all this information at www.damienmooremp.com/coronavirus.
I know that these are testing times, and that we are all going to feel the strain. My office and I are ready to support our town in any way we can.