Dr Dan Poulter gets leave from Westminster to join battle with coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 15:13 15 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:32 15 March 2020
Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter has been given leave of absence by Conservative Whips in the House of Commons to spend more time working in hospital to try to defeat the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic.
Dr Poulter will not be required to take part in routine votes in the House of Commons while the battle with Covid-19 continues - although his office will continue to deal with constituency issues.
The MP had already suspended his Westminster office and told his staff to work from his Suffolk office - or from home - in a bid to reduce the danger of coming into contact with people suffering from the virus.
He normally works part-time as a psychiatrist at a London hospital but will be stepping up his hours there as the NHS shifts resources to tackle the new virus.
He said: 'I shall be spending more time on my medical work as the government increases the resources for the NHS so the whips have given me leave of absence from the House of Commons during this crisis.
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'However I shall still be doing constituency work and be contacting ministers on behalf of my constituents - they should be able to contact my office as normal to be put through to my staff in Suffolk.'
If there was a major vote in the House of Commons that needed all MPs to attend - or there was an issue that especially affected his constituency being debated - then Dr Poulter said he would take part in debates as normal.
He felt the full effects of the crisis could be delayed from reaching Suffolk - especially the rural parts of the county. And the advice for the over-70s in rural parts of the county could be different to the message being given in London.
He said: 'It is quite right to say that people should stay at home to reduce the danger of coming into contact with others - and it is right that those living in an urban area, in a flat or something like that, should be advised to stay inside.
'But for healthy people in their 70s who want to go into their garden or want to take the dog for a walk in the fields or on the beach there should be no problem. The issue is that they should not come into close contact with people who could potentially pass the virus on to them.
'It is a very big thing that the government is likely to be asking people - it will have a major impact on their lives for many months but I think those living in rural areas will see different restrictions on their lives.'