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 Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe) 5:10 pm, 16th July 2020

Directors of public health in England are still complaining they are not getting the information they need. They only started to get area data from late June, when it became clear that Leicester had had 900 cases in less than a month. Within a week, Leicester was back under lockdown. The Prime Minister has described this as his “whack-a-mole” approach to controlling covid, but does the Secretary of State recognise that for the people of Leicester it has felt just as bad as the national lockdown?

I have raised many times the issue of test results from the UK Government labs not being sent to general practitioners or local public health teams. Is it true that that was not even specified in the contract? Even after Leicester, and despite covid being a notifiable disease since 6 March, local authorities and health protection teams in England are still being sent only anonymised area data, which is of little use to identify clusters, and only on a weekly basis, which is far too slow. Does the Secretary of State not accept that public health teams need daily data, with work and home postcode details, so they can spot an outbreak, and that they need individual test results, so they can isolate all those involved to break the chains of infection and prevent the further spread of the virus?

The Secretary of State rarely mentions isolation, but surely he knows that that is what actually breaks the chains of infection. That should be isolation of affected individuals, however, not our whole society or a whole city. The test and protect system in Scotland has been up and running since the end of May and disrupted a cluster of just 12 cases in the south of Scotland. That is the level of detail required to drive an elimination strategy.

The Secretary of State says that local lockdowns will be the cornerstone of his ongoing strategy, but how does he plan to deal with the social and economic impacts? Will he not join the devolved and Irish Governments in following an elimination strategy to avoid repeated local lockdowns? When does he envisage having a fully functioning test, trace and isolate system in place across England?