I am writing following questions from several of our local campaign groups seeking advice about the potential impact of COVID-19, the Coronavirus, on the operations of European Movement UK.
As you may be aware, as a former Health Minister I have been involved in numerous studio discussions on the subject in recent weeks and I have consistently taken the line that, although I think the government has sometimes moved too slowly, ministers are right to follow the scientific advice and I therefore recommend that European Movement groups follow the official guidance from the NHS, and from other organisations such as Public Health England, Public Health Wales, the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland, and Health Protection Scotland.
The two key principles which should guide official policy and guidance are:
- It must be based on the best available evidence
- It must be explained to the public
Official guidance inevitably involves judgements, but those judgements are based on evidence which is available for all of us to see, and which has not been seriously challenged.
In those circumstances I strongly believe that the right course of action is for us to act in line with official guidance which has now changed to encourage us to avoid unnecessary social contact. Regretfully I believe we should include our group activities in this broad-ranging definition, and – in common with other campaigning groups – we should advise all local EM groups to suspend activities until further notice. We will be continually monitoring the latest official guidance, and should the situation change significantly we will issue updated advice to our groups.
As individuals the advice is now familiar:
- Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
- Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
- Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
- Avoid all non-essential contact, and work from home if you can
If you are experiencing a new or continuous cough, or have developed a high temperature, please stay at home for fourteen days and call 111 for NHS advice.
I hope this period will not be unduly protracted and look forward to being able to resume the argument which brings us together in the European Movement.
Chair of European Movement UK