Covid-19 Update

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:10 pm on 16th July 2020.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 5:10 pm, 16th July 2020

The hon. Gentleman has spent weeks complaining about capacity to do things such as contact tracing and now complains that we have too much capacity. He should decide on a position and stick to it. On the point about Randox and the kits on which we put a pause, the reason is that they had a CE stamp and, on investigation of the certification of that stamp, the certification was not forthcoming, so physical checks were done and we found that the swabs were not up to the standards that we expect. This is limited to the Randox element of the testing system, not the broader testing system that we have. I explained the clinical position, which is that there is no evidence of any harm having been done and that there is full access to testing, because we have plenty of other test kits available.

The hon. Gentleman asked about test and trace. Ninety-nine per cent. of the tests that need to be done quickly are returned the next day. More broadly, he asked about the comments of the chief scientific adviser to the Select Committee. The 16th of March is the day that I came to this House and said that all unnecessary social contact should cease. That is precisely when the lockdown was started. It is unusual to be attacked for saying exactly the same as the chief scientific adviser.

On the questions with respect to Leicester, the hon. Gentleman rightly raises the Leicester fortnight. Schools have effectively risen for the summer in Leicester already. Of course, I would urge holiday companies that people in Leicester might have booked a holiday with to reimburse them at this point.

The hon. Gentleman mentions the problem and challenges of insecure work in Leicester, and he is absolutely right to do so. This is a long-standing problem, and I think the whole House would strongly support action to ensure that illegal insecure work is stamped out. My right hon. Friend and colleague the Home Secretary is taking action where appropriate, but, of course, the public health response is vital.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked about the public health advice on geography. Given that there were no cases in many areas of the county that are part of the conurbation of Leicester over the past week, it was, I think, a reasonable recommendation to me by the county council to lift the lockdown in those areas. I gave the Mayor of Leicester the opportunity to put forward any changes he might have wanted to within the city boundary, but he declined to do so.

Based on public health across the whole city of Leicester, within the city geography, incidence of this disease is higher than a sustainable level, and we absolutely need to bring it down. It is on the basis of that advice, and working with and listening to local leaders, that we took the decision on the geography of the lockdown in Leicester. I end by again paying tribute to people in Leicester, who are enduring the lockdown longer than others; it is their fortitude that will help to get their city safe again.