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HUW MERRIMAN MP NEWSLETTER

Dear Resident, 

I hope you are well. 

This afternoon, the Prime Minister announced a roadmap to cautiously move us out of lockdown and return the freedoms that we have all dearly missed. Please find a summary of the roadmap below. 

Since my last newsletter, I've been focusing most of my efforts on supporting the fantastic local COVID-19 vaccination programme which has now seen over 450,00 people across Sussex receive their first dose, including more than 90% of everyone aged 70 and over.

As last week was Parliamentary Recess, I was grateful for the opportunity to visit our vaccination centres at Sidley, Heathfield, Ticehurst and Etchingham. 


I hope you find this newsletter a useful summary of local support, initiatives, COVID-19 updates and my work on your behalf. 

Stay well, 

Huw

PS: As I'm sure you'll notice, I've given my newsletter a little reformatting. I hope it makes it easier to read!

Roadmap Out of Lockdown


This afternoon, the Prime Minister laid out to Parliament our roadmap to remove the COVID lockdown restrictions.

The Governments's full explanation of the roadmap can be found here.

The success of the vaccination programme has allowed for dates to be set for a path out of lockdown. The Prime Minister has described this as a cautious approach guided by the data. He has said that before taking each of the four steps out of lockdown, the Government will review the latest data on the impact of the previous steps against four tests:

  1. The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
  2. Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
  3. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. 
  4. The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern. 

STEP 1 - FROM MARCH 8TH 2021

  • Schools and colleges will reopen for all students supported by twice weekly testing of all secondary school and college pupils. 
  • Recreation alongside exercise outdoors with one person from outside your household will be permitted. However, clinically extremely vulnerable people will be advised to shield until the end of March. 
  • Universities can return for practical teaching, courses requiring specialist facilities or onsite assessments. All others will continue to learn online with more information on when they can return by the end of the Easter holidays. 
  • Every care home resident will be able to have one named visitor to visit regularly. The visitor will have to take a rapid lateral flow test every time they visit, wear PPE and keep physical contact to a minimum.

From 29th March when children go on Easter holidays, but still part of Step 1: 

  • Rule of 6 or two households applies to meeting outdoors, including private gardens, with social distancing measures. No household mixing indoors. 
  • Outdoor sport and leisure facilities can reopen. 
  • Organised outdoor sport permitted. 
  • Outdoor parent and child groups, up to 15 people, can resume. 
  • Funerals can take place with 30 people.
  • Wedding ceremonies can take place with 6 people. 

STEP 2 - NO EARLIER THAN 12TH APRIL 2021 AND SUBJECT TO THE LATEST DATA

  • Non-essential retail can reopen. 
  • Outdoor hospitality can reopen. 
  • Indoor leisure, including gyms, open for individual use or within household groups. 
  • Outdoor attractions such as zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas can reopen. 
  • Libraries and community centres can reopen. 
  • Domestic overnight stays will be permitted with members of your household only. 
  • Weddings and wedding receptions can take place with 15 people. 
  • Event pilots begin. 

STEP 3 - NO EARLIER THAN 17TH MAY 2021 AND SUBJECT TO THE LATEST DATA

  • Indoor hospitality can reopen. 
  • Indoor entertainment and attractions can reopen. 
  • 30 person outdoor limit socially. 
  • Rule of 6, or two households, meeting indoors will be allowed (subject to review). 
  • Organised indoor adult sport allowed. 
  • Theatres and concert halls can reopen. 
  • Sports stadium can reopen subject to capacity limits. 
  • Weddings and receptions can take place with 30 people. 
  • International travel can resume (subject to review). 

STEP 4 - NO EARLIER THAN 21ST JUNE AND SUBJECT TO THE LATEST DATA

  • No legal limit on social contact, with published accompanying guidance on how best to reduce the risk of transmission and protect ourselves and loved ones 
  • Reopen the remaining closed settings, including night-clubs, and enable large events such as theatre performances. 
  • Remove all limits on weddings and other life events.

Roadmap out of Lockdown: Questioning the Prime Minister

Those reliant on our local hospitality, retail and tourism economy will welcome dates for future opening. Some residents may prefer earlier dates. Others may prefer a more cautious approach. It’s a difficult balancing act. For holiday makers in England, the restrictions should be over by summer. For international travel it’s less certain. I asked the Prime Minister for more detail and whether there will be certainty on the rules around testing, proof of vaccine, self-distancing and quarantine to enable summer travel to and from the UK. You can listen to the Prime Minister’s response to my question in the House of Commons Chamber here.

Bexhill Observer Article

In my most recent article, I covered the success of our local vaccine programme, my views on our new COVID border security measures and my work to protect leaseholders at the Landmark in Bexhill  from the costs of remedial cladding work.

READ: here.

Visit to Etchingham Vaccine Centre

This morning, I visited Etchingham Village Hall's vaccine centre, headed up by James Bowey - a British Airways Jumbo Pilot! I'm very grateful to Etchingham Primary School for handing over their canteen and hall as a vaccination room when the upscale was announced, and to neighbouring residents for turning their gardens into carparks so patients can park safely. What a wonderful community effort! Find out more  here.

Visit to Ticehurst Vaccine Centre

On Tuesday, I visited the community-led Ticehurst vaccine centre, headed up by pharmacist Hardik Desai - who was rightly recognised by the PM on Monday's conference for heading up Ticehurst's efforts. If you happened to miss the press conference, you can read it hereFind out more  here.

Gigabit Broadband

As a member of the APPG for Rural Services, I supported the Chair's letter to the Minister for Gigabit Broadband Delivery. We requested clarity on how the Government plans to meet its commitment to deliver gigabit coverage to 85% of the countries' hardest to reach areas by 2025 without the allocation of appropriate funding to do so thus far. I’m setting up a meeting with the Minister to work out how this can be delivered to the constituency.

READ: here.

Returning Pupils to School

The Government has stated that classrooms will reopen to all pupils on 8th March. With the Government on track to vaccinate  those accounting for 90% of mortality risk by mid-February, I made the point to the Schools Minister that returning pupils to their classrooms will be even safer than their return last Autumn.

WATCH: here.

Cladding

66 leaseholders of the Landmark in Bexhill could face the huge cost of replacing dangerous cladding through no fault of their own. This is profoundly unfair. I have been working with the Government department for a solution and I expect better news to follow. 

READ here.

Business Grants Available

The Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment provides retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with one-off grans of up to £9,000 depending on the rateable value of the premises.

The Additional Restrictions Grant is for businesses that have been required to close under the lockdown but may not have a rateable commercial premises (and therefore won’t be covered by the above grant).

If you aren’t sure whether you meet the criteria for these grants, I encourage you to apply anyway so that our local councils can review your situation. 

APPLY THROUGH ROTHER DISTRICT COUNCIL here.

APPLY THROUGH WEALDEN DISTRICT COUNCIL here.


FIND LOCAL SUPPORT THROUGH ACES here.

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FINDER TOOL here.

Local Vaccine Update

Thanks to the hard work of our vaccination teams, everyone in the top four priority groups has been offered a vaccine in Sussex.

Anyone aged 65 and over or deemed clinically extremely vulnerable are now able to book their vaccination appointment.

Find out more here.

£1 Million to Support Domestic Abuse Victims in East Sussex

I'm pleased to report that last week, East Sussex County Council received £1,068,272 to support victims of domestic abuse and their children. 

READ: here.

Visit to Heathfield Vaccine Centre

Heathfield's GP team have been vaccinating their patients in the surgery.  Dr Sarah Jacques let me sit in as she vaccinated grateful residents (pictured above). This is a life-changing moment for many, and it was heartening to see so many constituents' relief and positivity after their vaccine. Well done Heathfield and the Firs surgery. Find out more  here.

Visit to Sidley Vaccination Centre

I had the pleasure of visiting Sidley's vaccination site and witnessing the fantastic work being carried out by Bexhill's GPs. It was great to speak to patients, volunteers and clinicians - all in extremely high spirits! Find out more  here.

Busting Vaccine Myths

It is, unfortunately, the case that there is a lot of misinformation spreading about the COVID vaccines, so I put together an FAQ on the vaccines to reassure you of its safety and dispel any myths that may discourage residents from getting it.

READ: here.

COVID-19 Border Security

I support our nuanced  approach to COVID border security, but am clear that our aviation industry needs more clarity.

I raised my concerns in the Chamber  that our new testing policy doesn't have an end date, despite our vaccine programme delivering in time for the Summer here.

Watch me urge the Transport Secretary to publish the criteria for red list countries here.

Watch me speak in a debate on our border controls here.

Transport Committee: Buses

As part of our enquiry into reforming public transport after the pandemic, our most recent Committee session focused on the bus industry. 

People have always taken the bus for shopping, leisure, commuting and education. But, the pandemic has accelerated trends towards online shopping and working from home. Some workers might not return to their places of work. We discussed whether other passengers will take their place, and what steps the Government could take to restore public confidence in our bus services. 

WATCH: here.
 

Hearts of Gold

I was pleased to join over 70 schools across Sussex, including Bexhill's All Saints Primary School in supporting Heads On's Hearts of Gold campaign to spread joy and hope amongst our communities while raising mental health awareness. 

Find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved here.

Could You Be a Bexhill Local Councillor? 

On Wednesday at 6pm (24th February), Rother District Council are holding an information evening to encourage people to stand for the new Bexhill-on-Sea Council elections in May. 

You can tune in to this important session live here.

Find out more about the new Council and becoming a councillor here.

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During the Coronavirus Crisis I will not be holding face to face surgeries but will be holding advice surgeries for urgent cases by phone.

To make an appointment for a telephone surgery please email: huw.merriman.mp@parliament.uk or call 01424 736861.

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