Covid-19 Update

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:50 pm on 23rd June 2020.

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Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 12:50 pm, 23rd June 2020

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the spirit, the manner and the constructive way in which he has responded. On his points, we do believe that all five tests have been met. That means that the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser have been intimately involved in every stage of developing the programme, and they believe it to be a step in our plan that allows us to go ahead while meeting that crucial test of not triggering a second wave.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about support for local councils, and I have said that we are putting in another £3.2 billion to support them, as well as £600 million to support their responsibilities for social care. Clearly their responsibilities have not ended, but neither has our support. We will get this country through this crisis by doing everything it takes.

That brings me to the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s question about businesses. I do not think there is another country in the world that has done quite so much to support our workforce and our employees. Under the coronavirus job retention scheme, we have supported 11 million people. We have supported 2.6 million self-employed people and £26 billion in bounce-back loans alone have been given out by the Government, to say nothing of the huge support in grants. We are very confident that it is one of the most extraordinary packages to be provided by any Government around the world, and we will continue to support our businesses.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentions track and trace and isolate. Of course it is perfectly true that it would be great to have an app, but no country currently has a functioning track and trace app. The great success of NHS test and trace is that, contrary to some of the scepticism that we heard—alas—from those on the Opposition Benches, so far it has contacted 87,000 people who have been in contact with those who have coronavirus, and they have elected voluntarily to self-isolate and stop the disease from spreading in the community. That is a fantastic success by our NHS test and trace operation, and we will continue to develop and improve that so as to crack down on local outbreaks and enable our country to go forward.

May I finally say how welcome it was to hear from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he actively supports children returning to school and that he believes that returning to school is safe? I think he said that.