Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:27 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Conservative, Bosworth 3:27 pm, 13th October 2020

I take this opportunity to thank all those in my constituency who followed the rules when Leicestershire was being threatened with a lockdown. Through their dedication and their following of the rules, we have managed to avoid it for now.

During that threat of lockdown, one of the key messages I brought to this House was the importance of making sure that two key messages get through: where the affected area is and the measures that come into place. I am therefore pleased to hear today that we have a simplification and a tier-based system that will allow our constituents to understand the measures in place. With a postcode checker as well, it is even better. That was built, and I fed into the review led by Dame Mary Ney. She has produced a document on good practice for areas going into lockdown. I suggest that Members have a look at that document, because they can hold the Government to account by the very nature of what is written in it.

I was pleased to hear yesterday—it was repeated again today—that the Government acknowledge the difficulties of balancing health and the economy. It is a simple temptation to say, “Let’s just do it by generations and protect the shielded”, but the evidence shows that we cannot do that. Generational spread does happen, and that is when the threat comes to our elderly and our shielded.

What has happened this time is that we have a more nuanced response from the Government, and I welcome that. It is good medicine to change as things progress, but I want to focus on the future. I have some short-term suggestions for the Government, such as making sure we are clear with our signage about indicative dates, changes and accountability. We need to be clear about the principles behind the decisions we take, so that when someone asks, “Why can’t I sing?”, they can be told, “Well, singing transmits the virus four times further.” When those principles are clear, it becomes obvious how to interpret the guidelines.

We want certainty for sectors, whether that is the wedding industry, events, the aerospace industry or the travel industry. They need certainty on exactly what will happen for them with guided points. They welcome timetables and they understand if things move, but a clear direction at least is important.

I welcome the aim for a vaccine, but until we get there I agree that a plan B would be useful. We have talked about near patient testing, and I have raised those questions in this House. Could it be that, in the future, before we come to speak in the Chamber, we have 20-minute saliva test—it is bound to be negative—and then come in and carry on with our day-to-day life? Until we get there, I urge the Government to read the Health and Social Care Committee’s recommendations on dealing with non-covid sites. At the end of the day, experience teaches us to help those who cannot and to empower those who can. That should be the message that the Government take forward.