This is a very challenging time for our community, and it is vital that we look out for our most vulnerable neighbours, who without our support, will bear the brunt of the COVID-19 outbreak, writes Florence Eshalomi…
Our borough has been through some very tough circumstances over the last few years, but we have always pulled together to lift each other up out of moments of darkness.
Right now, we have an extremely important responsibility to contain the spread of this virus. We can and must save lives by strictly following government instructions.
To be clear: we must all stay home and only leave to shop infrequently for food and essentials, or for a medical need. To keep up our mental and physical health, we can exercise once per day, but this must be alone or with members of our households.
Please continue to wash your hands frequently with soap for at least twenty seconds and self-isolate if you are unwell or have any symptoms. These are all instructions and not requests.
It has been inspiring to see the local response so far, with mutual aid groups and other community initiatives springing up all over Southwark. City Hall has recently published a dedicated page on the Greater London Authority website with opportunities and advice for safe volunteering during the outbreak.
For those self-isolating or physically unable to volunteer, please consider making a financial contribution to organisations such as local food banks and domestic abuse charities who are currently undergoing huge pressures to reach out to all those in need.
In Southwark, the outbreak is causing many businesses in the area to fall into financial difficulties, especially in the cultural, hospitality and retail sectors. Last Thursday, during mayor’s question time, I raised the plight of local businesses that have lost out on vital footfall due to closure.
The mayor provided me with reassurances that he is working closely with government to start laying out plans on how to aid the future recovery of these businesses, alongside robustly managing the current situation and containing the outbreak.
The chancellor’s unprecedented package of economic support, totalling £330 billion, including loans, grants and the exemption from business rates for a year, will be a lifeline for many business owners over the coming few months.
However, alongside the mayor, I will continue lobbying the government for more measures to protect and help our NHS workers, renters and those that are self-employed, on zero-hours contracts and working in the gig economy. The government must act swiftly to plug the gaps in their current policies, before thousands are needlessly left to fall through them.
Finally, I would like to say a huge thank you to all of our key workers. Firstly, to our incredible NHS staff and emergency service workers who put themselves at risk every day on the frontlines of this pandemic. Also, to our teachers and to retail staff and delivery drivers who are working incredibly hard to ensure that we all have access to the new supplies we need.
Florence Eshalomi is the London assembly member for Southwark and Lambeth, and MP for Vauxhall.