Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:49 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Daisy Cooper Daisy Cooper Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education) 3:49 pm, 13th October 2020

If we are to have any hope of getting a grip on this virus, reopening our economy and restoring our freedoms, it all depends on fixing test, trace and isolate, and on giving control of that system to directors of public health. As I understand it, local directors of public health can make proposals on how to tackle the virus in their area only under tier 3. Can the Government confirm today that, if local authorities make proposals on how to use extra delegated powers and their local knowledge to keep the virus under control in their areas, they will work with them to enable this to happen, even when those areas are just in tiers 1 and 2?

We also need to see proper financial support for those businesses that are being asked to close, so that they can both survive and recover. This is no small threat. Almost 25% of hospitality businesses think they will fail in the next three months. We understand the need for public health measures, but they must come with a proper package of support. Many in hospitality are worried that the restrictions on households mixing in tiers 2 and 3, and on alcohol to be served only with a meal, might make businesses commercially unviable, and they will need to close even if they have not explicitly been told to do so. In those circumstances, will the Government make the extended job support scheme available to those companies? If local authorities decide to close all pubs in addition to tier 3 measures, do those who are forced to close have access to the Government’s central extended support scheme, and do suppliers to those businesses that have had to close, but are not technically forced to close themselves, have recourse to the extended job support scheme as well?

Then there is the curfew. We have seen crowds of people in close contact turfed out onto streets, onto public transport, into off-licences and into homes where they cannot be policed. The facts are well rehearsed. SAGE members were not consulted. The Government did no assessment of the cost to business. The Campaign for Real Ale and UKHospitality asked for the evidence, but got nothing. The curfew is now subject to a judicial review, because the Government have failed to provide any evidence. Yesterday evening, at a briefing for MPs, the Government’s medical advisers admitted that the curfew was a policy decision, not a scientific one. Overnight, SAGE’s minutes observed that the curfew would have a marginal impact.