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Coronavirus

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:05 pm on 11th March 2020.

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Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe) 7:05 pm, 11th March 2020

I echo the good wishes to Ms Dorries.

I welcome the declaration to keep Parliament open, but surely we should be looking at core functions, at who comes into the House and at what we do in the House. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed to have several hundred of us jammed into the voting Lobbies on Tuesday. That is just not a good idea. There are ways of working that would still allow Parliament to stay open.

With cases having increased by 13 times outside China in just two weeks, the virus has of course been declared a pandemic by the WHO, which describes its concerned at “levels of inaction”. It calls for quicker and wider testing so that milder cases are diagnosed quickly, isolated and the spread reduced. We have seen the speed of change in northern Italy over a matter of a couple of weeks, so should we not be thinking about the delay phase? Containment and delay are a continuum; it is not a switch between one and the other.

We see large leisure events still continuing. They are not critical, so should we not be decreasing them? Do we know yet whether children are spreaders? We know they do not catch the virus, but do they spread it? That would be central to any decision about closing schools, and obviously closing schools would have an impact on NHS and social care staff.

I welcome the announcement in the Budget of funding to support people on sick pay, but will the Secretary of State clarify whether this will be provided to people who do not have sick pay in their contract? That is exactly who we were concerned about when we raised this point.

How quickly will all three devolved Governments hear about the extra funding that they are going to get, since it is urgent for them to take action as well? There has been talk about bringing doctors back from retirement. Is there a discussion with the General Medical Council about relicensing doctors, and about providing Crown indemnity for doctors who may have retired within the last year or two? The UK is already outside the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, so will the Government now at least rethink leaving the pandemic early warning and response system?