Watch out for the coronavirus scams

Dear Sir, — You really couldn’t make it up. It’s not enough that people are beginning to worry about the continuing reports of the effect that Covid 19 (coronavirus) is having in so many parts of the world, and how the disease will impact on the lives of themselves, their families and friends, but we now learn that police in Staffordshire have issued a warning about scam emails linked to the outbreak. 
Action Fraud says people in the UK have lost more than £800,000 in cases of fraud after being scammed using the outbreak, one victim losing £15,000.
Staffordshire police say they have received reports that scam emails are being circulated by fake research organisations, who state they are affiliated with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation. The scam email contains a link supposedly to a list of infected people in the recipient’s area, but in reality is a link to a malicious website. In some cases the person who clicks on the link is also asked to make a payment in bitcoin. Please be aware of any suspicious emails and avoid clicking links when you don’t know the sender.
If you receive any suspicious emails about Coronavirus, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or report it on actionfraud.police.uk It seems really sad that, despite some of the worst of times happening, there are those who still wish to make gains in such a vile way.
I also couldn’t quite believe the reports of shops having their shelves cleaned out by people panic-buying toilet and kitchen rolls, tinned food and medical items. Handwash I can understand, but I suppose human nature is to make sure they don’t go hungry or lack toiletry items. Surely we need to take on board the advice of the professional medical people who tell us there is no need for panic-buying, and everything is being done to keep people as safe as possible, but the media sometimes seems intent on causing unnecessary stress. 
It is very sad that the number of people contracting the virus is increasing. Here in the UK we have a population of over 67m. As I write, some have lost their lives — any loss of life is a cause for regret, but we need to keep in mind that in a normal winter, people can succumb to flu. Remember to keep a watch on vulnerable folk who may need help, and if possible report it to the authorities. I do not intend to sound more knowledgeable than anyone else, but I don’t like to hear of so many people becoming distressed by what is sometimes false reporting, particularly those of us in the “elderly” category. 
Last week I had an interesting meeting with the local highways officer at Ladderedge. We discussed some of the jobs outstanding, and I accepted some of the explanations; for example the blocked gulley on Halls Road, where it appears that the initial report from the inspector stated that the problem may be right under the playing fields. Should this be the case, it can be imagined the disruption and cost involved in dealing with this one gulley. This will need to be looked at in summertime when there may be fewer activities on the playing fields. 
I understand the pothole epidemic will be sorted this summer, weather permitting, as at the moment they are being repaired on a temporary basis. In Biddulph many gulleys empty into the river that runs through our town. Some sections are contained within concrete culverts, and with the torrential rain that has been falling the gulleys become blocked with debris, hence roads becoming flooded.
I also attended a Countryside Rights of Way Committee meeting. There is a backlog of work, some going back 20 years, with more reports coming in each week, so it is planned to increase the number of meetings to sort out the backlog, with more officers trying to resolve this situation. 
A flood group has been established, chaired by Staffordshire County Council to ensure that relevant grants from the Government to help our residents affected by flooding are dealt with correctly. Don’t get your hopes up just yet as the final paragraph from the Government reads: “In terms of the grants to residents and businesses whether the aforementioned are eligible appears to depend on there being 25 domestic households flooded in a district.” Further clarification is being sought on this matter.
As you will see in this edition of the Chronicle, an event is being advertised that is to take place in Biddulph Town Hall on Tuesday, 17th March from 1.30pm to 3.30pm. It is designed to give patients of both our GP practices the opportunity to learn what the advantages are following the formation of a primary care network. There will be opportunities to meet staff and ask questions, hear how the surgeries work and discover the exciting changes coming. Free mini health checks will also be available, also the opportunity to meet local community organisations. With free refreshments being on offer it should be a really good opportunity to gain knowledge in a relaxed atmosphere. 
I and my wife Kay are members of our practice’s patient participation group, which has enabled us to be kept up to date with recent expansions in health and social care, and I understand members of the two groups will be on hand to help out on the day.
Finally, I will be at my usual drop-in session at the Conservative Club on the high street from 10.30am to 11.30am this Saturday. All are welcome to have a chat about any matters of concern, or just to say hello.
Have a good week. — Yours faithfully,
(COUN) IAN LAWSON
County and district councillor.
Tel: 01782 522614.
Mobile: 07553 293 343.
ian.lawson@staffordshire.gov.uk