Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:07 pm on 3rd March 2020.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 1:07 pm, 3rd March 2020

We have been briefing colleagues as much as possible. Clearly, the CMOs’ time is incredibly valuable at the moment. We have worked with the Scottish Government on this plan; it was signed off by both the First Minister and the CMO for Scotland. In fact, it has been developed with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Government of Northern Ireland, so ultimately it is a multi-party plan.

The hon. Lady made the point about seven-day certification. That is indeed the sort of reason why we are holding this area under review and there is work ongoing, including on the points she has raised. She also asked about shaking hands. The medical advice is that the impact of shaking hands is negligible; what really matters is washing hands. Our public health advice will remain clear and based on the science—what matters, more than anything else, is that people wash their hands for 20 seconds or more, using soap and preferably hot water. That is the core of the public health advice.

The hon. Lady mentioned working from home. There is an incredibly important point about timing written into the plan. There are actions that we may need to take in future that it would not be appropriate to take now. We are not advising people to work from home now, but we do not rule out doing so in future if that might be more effective clinically, given the disruption it could cause.