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Covid-19: Your frequently asked questions

Last updated 30 March 2020 at 12:19. Please note that whilst we update this page regularly, information is subject to change.

What are the key sites for information?

Portsmouth City Council Covid-19 updates can be found here

NHS Covid-19 updates can be found here

Stay home and save lives instructions can be found here

What are the hotlines and government websites for help?

​Government Business Support:​ 0300 456 3565 ​and www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline  ​

​HMRC Coronavirus Tax:​ 0800 015 9559​ and www.gov.uk/difficulties-paying-hmrc  ​

​Universal Credit:​ 0800 328 5644​ and www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/already-claimed/helpline/  ​

School Closures: 0800 046 8687​ and www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19

I am self-employed, who do I contact to get information about my eligibility for financial assistance?

Government guidance on what is being offered to self-employed people has recently changed. Packages of support are available, but it depends on the how long you have been self-employed for, earnings and other factors. Stephen in continuing to lobby hard for more encompassing support packages and quicker financial aid payments for Portsmouth people.

HMRC have a team in place to deal directly with individual enquiries they can be contacted here: 0800 0159 559

Government guidelines can be found here

Should I still be using public transport?

The government are advising against non-essential travel via public transport. Bus and rail services have now reduced, with South West Trains cutting down on journeys. The information about these changes can be found here.

These are interim arrangements and alternative ways of handling refunds and delay-repay applications are being looked into.

Government has advised that a rigorous cleaning regime is taking place on public transport for those who do need to travel.

What does Covid-19 mean for my energy and water provision?

The BBC have reported that gas and electricity suppliers have agreed to an emergency package of measures to ensure vulnerable people do not get cut off during the COVID-19 crisis.

Those on pre-payment meters will receive help if they cannot get out to top up through credit being sent in the post or in funds and funds automatically being added to their meter.

Those who are struggling to pay bills will receive support and no credit meter disconnections will take place. There is also potential for bill payments and debt repayments to be paused, reassessed or reduced where necessary.

Additional information about what can be done about pre-paid energy whilst self-isolating can be found on the Money Saving Expert website. here

Should I be staying at home?

Absolutely. Stephen has been encouraging people to stay at home only popping out if you really have to or to get food supplies.

Following the statement by the Prime Minister on Monday 23 March, the Government introduced three new measures: requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes; closing non-essential shops and community spaces; and; stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public.

Guidance has been produced and is available here

Stephen is calling on the Government to provide greater clarity to employers and workers on this announcement with clear details above and beyond this guidance.

We must work together to beat the coronavirus. If you stay at home you are helping our NHS to save lives. If you go out unnecessarily you are helping to spread the virus. Show your support for staying at home to save lives by sharing Stephen’s tweet

Why have the government shut schools?

The government has now shut schools since 20 March 2020. The exception is for the children of key workers and vulnerable young people. Their reasoning is that Heads and teachers are just as at risk as anyone else, and as more and more staff called in sick – increasing numbers of schools started to fall like dominoes under the weight of this pandemic.

The Government has now published information on school closures due to Covid-19 in the interests of public health and who they mean by “key workers” here

Although the decision gives certainty for now – you can find out more about what this means for things like exams, attendance and schools employees going forward from Government here

The Department for Education Coronavirus Helpline is 0800 046 8687

Should I be stockpiling from supermarkets?

Absolutely not. Government guidance suggests that there is no need to stockpile and in fact this may have an adverse effect on the community. Please do not put other people’s lives at risk.

UK retailers are taking steps to ask shoppers not to panic buy for fear it will cause unnecessary shortages. Current advice is to only buy what you and your family need.

Stephen has written to every local supermarket and food store in the constituency about this and encourages everyone in Portsmouth to play their part to make sure everyone can get the food supplied they need. He is also lobbying Government for further measures to stop panic buying.

You can find more about panic buying here

What support is being offered to small businesses? 

Liaising with the Solent LEP, the Chamber of Commerce and city council Stephen has been pushing for a co-ordinated effort to support small businesses in Portsmouth as a result of Covid-19.

There are a number of questions which remain unanswered by Government however lobbying continues. Solent LEP have now updated their website to set out the support being provided here

Government guidance for small businesses can be found here

Stephen is working with others to help the promotion of small businesses in Portsmouth at this difficult time and continues his Support Local campaign raising concerns of local businesses with the council, government and others.

Council support for small business which Stephen has been encouraging can be found here 

What support is available to my own business?

During the budget certain measures were announced to support businesses affected by Covid-19. These were revised by the chancellor on the 17 March who pledged £330bn of government-back loans and guarantees. The chancellor has said that for smaller businesses in that sector who don’t have insurance cash grants of £25,000 will be provided.

Government information can be found here

For detailed guidance and answers from The Confederation of British Industry here

If you are a business who needs any help or advice please call the Business Support Helpline – telephone: 0300 456 3565 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)

Can my employer “lay me off” or put me on a short time? 

Your employer might be able to ask you to stay at home or take unpaid leave if there’s not enough work for you. A lay-off is if you’re off work for at least 1 working day. Short-time working is when your hours are cut.

Unite the Union have some helpful material which can be found here: Temporary lay off advice sheet PDF

On Friday 20 March the government announced additional support for people in work when instructing bars, pubs and restaurants to shut or only provide takeaway facilities. Further details to follow.

I have a family member overseas, what should I do? 

Government and expert advice suggest that you should not travel overseas at this time. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. All countries may restrict travel without notice.

The FCO travel advice remains the best and most up-to-date way to remain informed of travelling internationally and is currently being updated daily for many countries. Further instructions on how to get home are available on Travel Advice pages for each country, particularly the ‘Return to the UK’ page.

The Government recommend constituents should subscribe to travel advice email alerts for their destination, and continues to monitor the FCO coronavirus travel advice page.

These pages contain all the latest information and advice from the FCO on coronavirus for people living and travelling overseas. We also recommend your constituent follow their nearest Embassy or Consulate on social media.

Government guidance on this can be found here

Stephen is prioritising helping constituents who are currently abroad, and providing assistance to their families. If you know someone who is already overseas and is stranded, you can find consular support here

Should I be self-isolating?

If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started.

If you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days.

NHS guidelines on self-isolation can be found here

Government guidelines can be found here

I am over 70, what should I be doing?

Current government guidance states that all over 70s, regardless of medical condition, should carry out social distancing measures until further notice. This means avoiding gatherings, working from home, avoiding travel and a host of other measures.

Government information on this can be found here

I am self-isolating, what does this mean for my mental health?

Staying away from other people and staying at home could have mental health implications. But there are lots of things you can try that could help your wellbeing. It may seem daunting and scary but there are plenty of resources and people who can help.

Mental health charity, Mind has some guidelines here

The NHS has some guidelines here

What support is available to my business?

During the budget certain measures were announced to support businesses affected by Covid-19. These were revised by the chancellor on the 17 March who pledged £330bn of government-back loans and guarantees. The chancellor has said that for smaller businesses in that sector who don’t have insurance cash grants of £25,000 will be provided.

Government information can be found here

For detailed guidance and answers from The Confederation of British Industry here

If you are a business who needs any help or advice please call the Business Support Helpline – telephone: 0300 456 3565 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)

Can Stephen still help with casework?

Yes. Stephen has taken a number of measures to ensure that his office is still able to help Portsmouth people with Casework while keeping staff safe.

While face-to-face contact have currently stopped, steps have been taken to continue providing service to constituents. If you have a casework inquiry or need urgent help please email or call.

Please note that Portsmouth City Council is at a ‘business critical’ phase. This means that if your enquiry relies on Stephen liaising with the council over a housing, planning or other council related issue, the council may be unlikely to provide a response at this time due to Covid-19 emergency measures.

How quickly can Stephen help?

We are currently receiving an extremely high level of contact at this uncertain time so correspondence is being prioritised and actioned as soon as possible.

You can email contact Stephen by emailing: stephen.morgan.mp@parliament.uk or calling the office on: 02392 29 1088

I want to volunteer and help others vulnerable to Covid-19, can I do this?

Stephen has been liaising with The Hive in Portsmouth who are coordinating a joined-up volunteer response.

There a lots of community groups and residents helping in lots of ways.From helping vulnerable people with shopping to tackling social isolation, there is a role for everyone.

You can contact The Hive here: info@hiveportsmouth.org.uk 023 9268 8880

I am worried about my rights as a self-employed person? 

Stephen has been lobbying government hard to provide a comprehensive package of support for self-employed workers and small businesses. Including better statutory sick pay and an Income Guarantee Scheme. Despite the announcements on 26 March, to date the package from Government has not been sufficient.

The self-employed already lack all of the legal protections of redundancy and other rights already in place to help protect employees, including those they employ themselves, from a sudden lack of income.

Information, help and support is available at here

Government advice can be found here

HMRC have a dedicated line here 0800 0159 559.