As we move into full national lockdown with stronger restrictions, I want to urge everyone to follow health guidance at all times. I know that this is a difficult time for everyone and I will soon write another blog about my views on the government’s decision making and the consequences. But whatever the reasons, we now need these measures to protect lives, health and the NHS as well as education.

Public health officials tell me that the virus is now rising fast across Bristol’s population, in all demographic groups. Now, more than ever, we cannot let our guards down. We have to stick to the rules.

As the number of COVID-19 cases has risen sharply over the last few weeks, it has become clear that we need to try harder to stop the spread of infection. Discussions were already under way with the Department of Health about increasing the Tier status of Bristol but obviously this has now escalated and we are all moving back into lockdown, with some changes from the rules during the first lockdown earlier this year.

The main changes:

  • Nonessential retail, hospitality and leisure must close.
  • Pubs, bars and restaurants must close except for takeaway and delivery.
  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS – the furlough scheme) is extended until the start of December, with the government paying 80% of workers’ wages, but requiring employers to contribute employer NICs and pension contributions, as with the first tapering back of the scheme which took place in August.
  • Workplaces in construction and manufacturing will be encouraged to remain open but in general people are asked to work from home when they can.
  • Childcare, early years settings, schools, colleges, and universities will all remain open.
  • No mixing of people inside homes, except for childcare and other forms of support.
  • Single adult household bubble arrangements will remain in place.

You can read more about them here.

We all need to do everything we can to beat this virus. That means wearing a mask in shops, public transport and other indoor settings. We should all wash our hands regularly and keep a safe distance from others. I am also asking everyone to download and use the COVID tracing app. Other countries have shown these measures can be effective in reducing transmission, ultimately allowing life to go back to near normality.

I know that many people will be feeling anxious, isolated or lonely. Please take special care to look out for anyone you know who is struggling. If you are struggling, please call Samaritans for urgent support and Bristol City Council to find out what practical help is available. Our fantastic local community centres are also running schemes.

If you are struggling to buy food or other essentials, Fareshare or Bristol City Council’s crisis and prevention team might be able to help. The Council also provide food vouchers for children in some circumstances.

Please, act responsibly. We managed to get the virus down over the summer, and we can do it again. If we don’t stick to the guidance, the virus will grind on through next year. This means increasing illness, rising deaths and many thousands of people losing their jobs.

If you are worried about financial hardship, I would recommend seeing what is available on the government support schemes, below. If you are running a business affected by this change, you may qualify for some support from the council. If these schemes do not help, please get in touch and my caseworkers and I will see what I can do to help.

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