Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:19 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 2:19 pm, 13th October 2020

We have one of the biggest systems of tracking and tracing in the world. The idea that I sometimes get from people in this House is that, somehow, it is not one of the biggest systems in the world or one of the most effective in the world. I get that in this House, but I do not get it when I talk to my international colleagues. They ask me, “How did you manage to build this capacity so fast?” That is the truth of it.

Of course we need to continue to build it and to make sure it is continuously more integrated into the local communities, who can often go to reach the contacts that the national system finds it hard to reach. However, to argue that the enormous system that is working so effectively, with so many brilliant people working on it, is at the root of this challenge is, unfortunately, to miss the big picture, which is that, sadly, this virus passes on—until we have a vaccine or a massive testing capacity that nobody yet has, this virus passes on through social contact and that is, unfortunately, what we need to tackle in order to get this under control.

Let me make a point about the numbers. In the first peak, about 8% of people caught covid and 42,000 people died. If we do not have the virus under control, even with the better survival rates we now have, thanks to both drug discoveries by British science and improvements in clinical practice, those figures will multiply. In addition, harder economic measures would then inevitably be needed to get it under control and they would be needed for longer. If you, Madam Deputy Speaker, like me, want our economy back on full throttle, we need to keep this virus in check.