Harrow East MP Bob Blackman backs the government decision yesterday to shut schools as he says it has “reached the time” to make this a sensible action.
Members of Parliament dealing with constituencies around Harrow are hoping to lead residents through a mannered response during the Covid-19 outbreak as they share their thoughts on the spread of the virus.
Mr Blackman called the outbreak “devastating” and that people are “rightfully worried” but says he urges his constituents to follow any advice given by Public Health England if they feel any suspected symptoms.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced at the Commons yesterday (March 18) that schools in England are to shut as of Friday until “further notice”.
In response to that, Mr Blackman believes that that the decision was timed carefully, and would have caused more issues if it was instructed earlier.
He said: “The Government has my full support in following the expert advice given by the Chief Medical Office.
“The decision to keep schools open has been sensible so that parents are able to go to work knowing that their children are safe in schools.
“However, we know that many teachers are being forced to self-isolate due to a family member becoming ill, which then translates into incredible pressure on headteachers keeping schools open.
“We have now reached the time when schools will have to close and stay closed for months, possibly until the Autumn.
“We need to ensure that essential workers can continue to work knowing that their children are safe and those who depend on free school meals still have access to nutritious foods.”
This was met with agreement with Conservative MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, David Simmonds.
The MP hinted prior to the announcement yesterday that it was nearing the “right amount of time” to close schools and to do so beforehand would be “too early”.
Mr Simmonds said: “I think the Government was right to prioritise people like NHS workers during this time, if kids can be high risks of carrying a disease, and then have to be looked after by grandparents or the elderly – then that becomes a risk to them.
“And the Government said from the beginning it will intervene when it is time and prepared to do so, part of this involves the closure of schools.”
Gareth Thomas, the Labour MP for Harrow West, added that he “supports the expected decision to close all schools”.
Speaking on how the community has reacted, Mr Thomas said: “The response from local people in Harrow has been impressive so far.
“The council are working closely with the voluntary sector to put in place a community wide effort to support those who have to self-isolate or who get ill and anyone who can volunteer to support that, should look for detail on my, the council’s or the Harrow Voluntary and Community Sector’s website.
“I pay particular tribute to the staff of our NHS. We are lucky in Harrow to have first class GP surgeries and hugely committed staff at Northwick Park Hospital too.
“I’m pleased that local superstores are beginning to put in place sensible restrictions to prevent panic buying and crucially are guaranteeing the elderly and vulnerable guaranteed times to use their stores, early in the mornings when the shelves are full and after stores have been rigorously cleaned.”
Similarly, Mr Blackman said: “The government has told people not to ‘panic buy’, and I urge residents of Harrow East to only purchase what is necessary so that there is sufficient stock left for those who need to purchase provisions urgently.
“I am pleased that some supermarkets are providing elderly & vulnerable people with a reserved hour to shop and also introducing measures to stop people buying far more than they need.”
Mr Simmonds added: “It’s very clear that people with the most vulnerable immune systems are affected, and while there are selfish people out there buying more than they need, we should be thinking about those who need it more.
“Not everybody needs to buy weeks of products at a time. It’s all about working together in a time like this.
“Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner is the type of constituency where people look after each other.
“We’ve had a number of groups volunteering to do what they need to do.
“But the constituency has an older age demographic, so it’s important to be cautious for them.”
All three MPs are conducting their constituency surgeries through telephone and email as a safer way for both the public and staff.
As of 9am on March 18, there are 45 confirmed cases in Brent, 40 in Harrow, and 21 in Hillingdon.