Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:07 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Conservative, South West Wiltshire 3:07 pm, 13th October 2020

The hon. Lady can do what she likes. The Secretary of State is dealing with the situation that he found at the time. Developing the National Institute for Health Protection in short order from the disaster that was Public Health England was, I think, a very good effort, but there is much more to be done, as I know he appreciates.

May I sound a cautionary note for the Secretary of State? We have gone to great measures to close down schools, and I appreciate the need for that. That was informed, of course, by the Imperial College model, which was a flu model, in essence, and was inadequate for this particular virus. He will know—I hope he does—of the work published in September by the University of Edinburgh group under Ackland, which suggests that that certainly did suppress admissions to ITU. It certainly protected the NHS, but probably over time, unless we get a vaccine, it will cause more deaths directly from covid, quite apart from the incidentals for other diseases, the loss of liberty and livelihood. The Secretary of State needs to understand that and that there is an alternative view. If we do not get a vaccine, I fear, paradoxically, that we will see more deaths, not fewer, as a result of some of the interventions that we have put in place. Of course, Ackland was unsighted on this latest set, but the logic would suggest that those measures too may, over time, if we get a third and fourth wave, cause more trouble than they solve. It is a respectable piece of work and the Secretary of State needs to take account of it.

In all this, we simply do not know and we are learning all the time. We have to accept, I think, the expertise of those advising Ministers and that we have experts for a reason, but there is an alternative view. Unless we get a vaccine—goodness me, I hope we do—I think we may find that the cure is worse than the disease in terms of lives lost directly to covid, incidental lives lost to other common diseases—stroke, heart attack and particularly cancer—loss of liberty, loss of livelihood and the compete trashing of our economy. That is what is at stake. I do not envy the Secretary of State in his work.