Lockdown Easing: Public Confidence

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

What steps he is taking across Government to increase public confidence in the policy of easing the covid-19 lockdown.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Paymaster General

We recognise the range of emotions that people are feeling about the lifting of restrictions. Tremendous sacrifices have been made to get the virus under control, and incredible patience shown. We published our recovery strategy on 11 May and each day our measures follow the approach it sets out. Protecting public health is, and must always be, our No. 1 priority.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

To avoid a damaging second spike to our economy, is not a yard more than sufficient?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Paymaster General

We are determined to get the UK economy—including the hospitality sector—up and running again and our schools reopened. Research published in The Lancet last week showed that a physical distance of at least 1 metre—or, if my right hon. Friend insists, 1.09 yards—

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Paymaster General

I thought he might. That was strongly associated with a lowered risk of transmission, but a distance of 2 metres was likely to be more effective. The advice therefore remains that wherever possible the public should keep two metres from one another, but the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies keeps that under review.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

Can the Minister think of one specific episode in the past few weeks that might have done more than anything else to undermine the Government’s public messaging on covid? If she is struggling, let me give her a clue: Specsavers.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Paymaster General

The hon. Gentleman raises a serious point, but if he thinks that that has undermined public health messages, I would strongly suggest he might like to stop banging on about it.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

The failure of this Government to take the Cummings episode seriously has not just compromised the public messaging; it is worse than that for them—it has compromised their credibility and popularity, which have now taken the catastrophic nosedive they thoroughly deserve. The public anger over Dominic Cummings has not abated, as the right hon. Lady will see if she looks at her inbox. The whole battle against covid has been wrecked by the pathetic protection of this odd man. Is Dominic Cummings really worth all of this?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Paymaster General

It is absolutely vital in every part of our United Kingdom that people follow the advice of our respective chief medical officers. They should do that not because I, the hon. Gentleman, any politician or any adviser asks them to, but because it is the right thing to do to protect our families, our communities and our NHS and to get the economy moving again. I know that the hon. Gentleman is angry, and many people are angry, but that is what we need to focus on and that is the message we need to deliver. I thank everyone in this country who has followed that advice, because they are beating the virus.