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Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:38 pm on 17th March 2020.

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Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 12:38 pm, 17th March 2020

In Peru, yes. That team is working as best it can under very difficult conditions. I am very happy to take a look at the case to which she has referred. We have a whole range of practical advice for hon. Members to give to their constituents. Our FCO travel advice is available online. Hon. Members and their constituents can sign up to receive email updates, so they get it in real time. My officials also run a specific hotline for hon. Members to contact. I have also shared details with hon. Members in a “Dear colleague” letter, which will go out shortly today. We are doing everything that we can to give hon. Members on both sides of the House the practical information that they need in what is a fast-moving and fluid situation.

The right hon. Lady asked what we were doing more generally in relation to helping people to get back home. The first thing to say is to avoid travel if you might find yourself in a situation, either because of current or future measures, in which you are unable to get back home. We are liaising with the tour operators and the airlines to make sure that even when restrictions are in place there is a window of opportunity to get out with commercial flights. We do not have precise numbers, but given the volume of British nationals who are abroad—not necessarily permanently or living abroad, but travelling abroad—to expect that the Government can repatriate them all is unrealistic. What we do is make sure that we are in a position to protect the most vulnerable.

The right hon. Lady asked why our consular teams were stretched. She ought to have a look at the scale of the international challenge that this country and everyone are facing with covid-19. Teams across Government, including consular teams in the Foreign Office, are doing an exceptional job in very difficult circumstances. She is right to point to different measures that have been taken around the world. The UK approach is to follow the best scientific advice that we have, and to take measures, both domestically and internationally, in line with trying to reduce the peak of coronavirus in the UK and the number of infections, and making sure that we maximise the capacity of the NHS to deal with that. Finally, the right hon. Lady did her usual routine of sniping at the US President. That is no substitute for a serious question on the substance, let alone a serious policy answer.