Covid-19 Update

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:06 pm on 29th June 2020.

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Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe) 9:06 pm, 29th June 2020

Naturally, I too am delighted that Scotland has had no deaths for four days and only five cases today.

Public Health England began publishing combined data from commercial as well as NHS labs at the beginning of this month. Since then, it has become clear that Leicester has had far more covid cases than it was previously aware of, with almost 900 over the last three weeks. This data is published only weekly, however, which is of no use for tracing contacts or the early identification of an outbreak.

The Secretary of State tends to focus on the number of tests, but does he accept that it is actually tracing and isolation that stop the spread of the virus? How does he expect local public health teams to identify an emerging outbreak if they cannot access accurate data, and how can they manage one if they are not sent individual test results in realtime? When will he be able to guarantee that test results are sent immediately to GPs and local public health teams, so that they can trace contacts and isolate patients?

The lack of accurate data can also affect Government decisions. On 10 May, when the Prime Minister eased lockdown across England, almost 40,000 positive cases from the commercial labs were not included in the data of the four nations. Even now, the UK Government website claims that there have been just over 160,000 covid cases in England, despite Public Health England reporting that there have actually been 240,000. Does the Secretary of State really think it safe to go ahead with opening pubs and restaurants across England when there have been 50% more cases than previously reported? If the UK Government were aware of this much higher incidence, why have they knowingly been publishing false information on their website?