Bangla Sanglap Desk: “I have been calling for a national circuit break lockdown – to protect our communities and try to halt the spread of Covid-19 – for weeks. I’m relieved that the government has finally heeded our calls, but this decision has undoubtedly come too late, and many more lives will have been lost as a result of their failure to act sooner.
“In the first wave of the virus, Newham saw the highest death rate in London. Tragically, we have already lost more than 320 residents to Covid-19. Our people and our local businesses have also been disproportionately affected – with 17,000 placed on furlough and more than 27,000 additional people needing to claim benefits. We know also that the virus has taken a greater toll on Black and minority ethnic communities. In a borough where 73 percent of residents are from BAME backgrounds, our borough is at the sharp end of the crisis.
“The Government has said that the original furlough scheme will be reinstated for the month, and this is a victory for local government as we’ve been calling for Government to do this for weeks now; but it is a short reprieve. They must go further and clarify what additional measures they will put in place to protect jobs and support those whose livelihoods will be worst hit. They must commit to at least 80 percent of people’s salaries being covered, and no one’s income should fall below the national minimum wage because we cannot allow for more and more people to fall into hardship and poverty. I am absolutely clear that the lockdown must come with additional support to safeguard incomes that have already been so badly affected by the pandemic, and we will continue to press the Government to do whatever it takes to minimise the impact. That also means full sick pay protection for anyone having to self-isolate.
“Councils like Newham should also be provided full funding so we can put in place all the public health requirements needed to safeguard our communities and support the most vulnerable including rough sleepers, low income families facing food poverty and those needing to access mental health services. They must also extend the ban on evictions – in Newham we’ve had amongst the highest pre-Covid; and they need to give us more money to embed robust local test and trace in our borough, so that we can get on with protecting our residents.
“I know that many residents will be deeply concerned both about the impact of the virus, and about the impact of further restrictions on them and their families. I ask all residents to please continue to observe the rules, both now and when the wider lockdown comes into force.
“Please, stay at home; only leave the house for essential reasons such as grocery shopping and work at home if you can; wear a face covering if you have to go out in public; keep at least two metres from others, and wash your hands regularly. If you experience any Covid-19 symptoms, you must self-isolate and seek a test as soon as possible. Thank you.”