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 Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader 12:50 pm, 23rd June 2020

May I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister and the leader of the Labour party on the outrage that took place on Saturday in Reading? Our thoughts are very much with the family and friends of James Furlong, of Joe Ritchie-Bennett and of David Wails. We give grateful thanks to all our emergency services for the work that they continue to do. On this day, we also acknowledge the sad death of Harry Smith, the former political reporter for ITV and Scottish Television. He will be sadly missed.

I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of his statement. Today’s announcement will be understandably welcomed by many, but for every word of welcome, there must follow words of caution. The virus has not gone away. The margins for ensuring it does not take off again remain tight. Keeping people safe remains the first priority. We cannot put a price on human life. China and Germany are right now dealing with spikes in cases as a result of significant outbreaks. Health officials in South Korea have said they think the country is now experiencing a second wave. A similar experience here would amount to not just a health disaster, but an economic disaster. It would wipe out all the hard-won progress and self-sacrifice over recent months. It is vital that our collective efforts remain focused on preventing the disaster of a second spike.

We must remain cautious, too, because the public are well used to hearing grand announcements from the Prime Minister, only for a U-turn to follow days or weeks later. Not only have the UK Government wasted precious time on introducing a botched test and trace system, but they have wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money in the process. That is why it is essential that the next steps are directed solely by the science, rather than political pressures. Can he confirm, therefore, that he will publish not just the conclusions but the full review on social distancing measures and the scientific advice given?

We know that a review of quarantining measures following foreign travel was due next week. Will the Prime Minister confirm that the introduction of any air bridges will be based on public health assessments, not economic assessments? Can he also confirm that the devolved Governments will be closely involved and party to any arrangements with any country on air bridges? Finally, to maintain full clarity, will he reaffirm that the announcements today are solely for England and that the citizens of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland should continue to follow public health advice from their own Governments?