Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:37 pm on 15th September 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 12:37 pm, 15th September 2020

We absolutely need to control this virus. I very much hope that we will make very significant progress, through treatments and vaccines, within the sorts of times that I set out previously—definitely in less than a millennium. I think that we will make significant progress in the coming months. However, in that time, we do have to control the virus.

We took the action in Sandwell having looked carefully at the data. Working with the right hon. Gentleman’s local authority, we also looked carefully at whether we should only put some parts of Sandwell under local measures—in particular, the Smethwick area was much more significantly affected earlier on—but it was clear that the virus was spreading throughout Sandwell, so working with the local authority, we decided to take local action across the whole district. That is the sort of action that we have to take.

The strategy that I have set out many times at this Dispatch Box is that social distancing is the first line of defence: the rule of six, and hands, face and space. The next line of defence is testing and tracing, which is why it is so important that we have record testing capacity and are trying to boost that further. The next line of defence is local action and ensuring that we do take that local action where necessary, even though it is uncomfortable to do so.