The impact of the Coronavirus is hitting people in many ways and the range of emails and calls we are getting is immense. The biggest priority for us all is to take notice on the recent advice on Social Distancing and I would implore you all to take notice and follow advice, it is for ALL our benefits.

I have provided separately details of the various help lines, web sites etc that are available and we are seeing very significant demand on these.

People have intense personal concerns and issues and whilst it is very difficult please be patient with the staff working in these areas as a lot of them have been retrained to support the demand and they are all doing there absolute best.

One very visible concern locally last week was that of food on the shelves of supermarkets. I personally spoke to the staff in a number of supermarkets both in Newton Aycliffe and the rest of the Sedgefield constituency and the message was very clear. That food is available in the supply chain but the demand from people is extraordinary and making the shelves look empty. The stores I visited in Aycliffe and elsewhere after lunch still had product on the shelves despite one having had queues around the car park in the morning, can I please implore everyone to buy at normal levels and allow others to get their share too.

I would ask everyone to be particularly considerate to the supermarket staff who are working incredibly hard and yet at times are getting unreasonable abuse from people which is wholly unacceptable, they are doing their very best. I would also pay credit to organisations like Junction 7, Community Spirit and many others who are stepping up and helping others.

We get very specific questions and also more general suggestions and lobbying for solutions, I can assure everyone that all of these are being fed into the teams that are working incredibly hard to deliver both policy and action. I have briefings with the Council, Police etc to discuss actions being taken and pressures resulting and I am ensuring that where necessary issues are escalated.

The single biggest issue continuing to hit us as I write is support for self employed and I know the treasury team are working very hard on that and I have had representations from numerous residents and have put these up for consideration.

Depending on personal situations everyone’s priorities are very different with examples being, “how do I get food if I need to self isolate”, “my bank isn’t helping re business loans”, “why can’t our broadband be better in the village”, please can you consider the range of different problems that we are having to address at the same time and be patient, everyone is working very hard to get you answers.

As this evolves there will be more issues arising and the focus will change, we will do everything we can to support people as this extraordinary situation evolves.

It is imperative that people use sources of information that are reliable and have integrity. The websites of the Government, NHS and Durham County Council are obvious starters but your local publication like Newton News are also fantastic source of particularly local information. Indeed where the Newton News goes further is in reaching the members of our community that are not on social media and we are incredibly lucky to have this community resource.

Paul Howell

Member of Parliament

for Sedgefield