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 Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 3:36 pm, 8th June 2020

Let me make a couple of points in response. First, we have turned around an incredibly difficult situation when the demand for PPE shot up. Thanks to the incredible work of Lord Deighton, we now have good PPE supplies to all sectors. We are working with the dentists to ensure that they, too, will be able to get the PPE they need. The hon. Gentleman talks about testing, but he omitted to mention that we have hit every goal on our testing expansion, and we now have capacity for more than 200,000 tests a day and last week we were achieving that level of testing, which is a testament to the work of so many people, in companies and in the public sector, who have done an incredible piece of work on testing.

He picked on the results of one particular model that we look at, but he surely understands that actually the way to get the best advice is to look at all the different models, rather than just one. I mentioned one other survey, which is based on data rather than modelling—the ONS survey—and I also told him already the SAGE view, taking into account all the evidence, which is that R is below one in each region.

As the hon. Gentleman said, we do publish R. He is quite right about the importance of working with local authorities and local leaders. I spoke to the Mayor of Greater Manchester on Friday about the higher rate of R in the north-west, albeit that it is assessed to be below one. Local leaders are incredibly important in the local action that we will be taking.

The hon. Gentleman asked about local authorities and GPs getting access to data. We are working with them on the appropriate data that should flow to local authorities and GPs. He asked, rightly, for guidance on how local action will work, and that is an important early piece of work for the JBC—the joint biosecurity centre. I am glad he has recognised the importance of the work that Public Health England has done and published on the disparities between people of different ethnic backgrounds and also other differences, for instance the fact that older people are much more likely to die from covid-19. It is very important that we base our response on all this evidence.