Covid-19: R Rate and Lockdown Measures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:36 pm on 8th June 2020.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 3:36 pm, 8th June 2020

I note what has just been said about the social care taskforce, but may I say that it probably should have been set up some months ago? The Government are easing restrictions, but even when looking at their own tests we know that PPE supplies are still not secured—dentists are warning about PPE today; that tracing is still not fully operational—the chief operating officer of test and trace has warned that it will not be fully operational until September; that testing is still not sufficient—we are still not routinely testing all NHS staff, whether asymptomatic or not, even though we know that such testing will arrest the spread of the virus in hospitals; and that the R value, according to the PHE Cambridge model, is close to 1 in many regions and is at or above 1 in the north-west and the south-west. The modellers of that model warn that that may result in the

“the decline in the national death rate being arrested by mid-June.”

The British people have shown great resilience and fortitude in observing this lockdown and helping to slow the spread of this deadly, horrific virus, but we have still had more than 40,000 deaths. As the Secretary of State said, infections are still running at more than 5,000 a day. We should proceed with caution, but many now fear that the Prime Minister is starting to throw caution to the wind. I therefore wish to put some specific requests to the Secretary of State: will he agree to start publishing, on a weekly basis, the regional R value estimate, alongside the national estimates? Does he agree that the voices of regions must be heard in future decisions about lockdown? Will he start including the various metro Mayors, such as Andy Burnham, in the covid Cobra meetings? Will the Secretary of State ensure, this week, that local authorities and general practitioners start receiving specific data about who has tested positive so that they can start putting in place area-based responses? Will he issue, this week, written guidance on defining what a “local lockdown” is, how it will be enforced and what resources and powers local authorities and agencies will be able to draw upon?

Finally, we know that the more deprived an area is, the higher the covid mortality level. There are pockets of deep deprivation in the north-west and in the south-west, such as in parts of Cornwall. What financial support will be given to those who are asked to isolate? Given that we also know that black, Asian and minority ethnic people are more at risk from covid, will he now publish the PHE report on disparities in full—all the chapters, all the analysis, all the recommendations—because action to protect BAME people, especially BAME health and care staff, must be an urgent priority?