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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:42 pm on 16th March 2020.

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Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 3:42 pm, 16th March 2020

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is currently at a Cobra meeting, determining the next stage of the Government response to the coronavirus. He therefore apologises for the fact that he is unable to open this debate. With your permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, he will be making a statement to the House a little later this afternoon. That will provide right hon. and hon. Members with the opportunity to question him on the latest position, so I urge colleagues to pause any specific questions related to coronavirus until that statement, when they will have the latest information.

May I also say that it is a pleasure to be back after last week’s precautionary self-isolation, following contact with a confirmed case and on Public Health England advice? It has subsequently advised me that, as I am symptom-free, I can return. Let me put on the record my thanks to PHE for the work it is doing for everyone at the moment, and to hon. Members and constituents for their kind words last week.

Coronavirus is the most serious public health challenge that our country has faced in a generation. Our goal is to protect life and to protect our NHS. Last week’s Budget showed that we will rise to that challenge. Under the plans laid out by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, workers will have a strong safety net to fall back on if they fall sick, businesses will get financial help to stay in business, and the NHS will get whatever resources it needs. All in all, the Chancellor announced last week a total of £30 billion of investment in the financial health of the nation.