Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:53 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Craig Whittaker Craig Whittaker Assistant Whip 3:53 pm, 13th October 2020

I will say at the start that, as a Conservative, imposing state control over people’s lives makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable and puts me well outside my personal comfort zone.

Back in August, when the whole of Calderdale was put under local restrictions, we got additional support from the Government in several forms. One form of support was an additional tier on the national track and trace system. That has been a valuable tool to give the local authority real evidence of where the spikes are coming from. As a result of that, we traced around 90% of contacts.

As I said, I have a problem with state control over people’s lives, but—and there is a “but”—what we have seen locally during local restrictions is that, although the majority of people adhere to the law and guidance, which is worth repeating, sadly, a significant number do not. Unfortunately, the actions of a significant few are putting everybody else at risk, and the current spike is staggering. It is the result of a significant minority who are taking the liberty of living their daily lives as they choose, and they are putting everybody else at risk. These are some of the things that are happening locally, some of which are evident from our track and trace system: people not self-isolating when they are unwell;  people not self-isolating when they return from holiday; and people not self-isolating when they have been in contact with someone else who has tested positive. It is not advised to mix households in pubs and restaurants; however, because that has been guidance only, our local pubs and restaurants have been full of mixed households seated together. That is not evidence from track and trace, but from the local MP, in the pub for most of the weekend. Finally, households are still mixing, despite it being law that they cannot.

There are many reasons why people have not adhered to the law or guidance, but the reality is that when a significant few ignore Government advice and take decisions about the pandemic into their own hands, they put the majority at huge risk. This is by no means a criticism of our local police and local authority, but they have taken the decision to have a light-touch approach to enforcement of local restrictions. I have supported that, but we are again at a cliff edge with the virus locally, and that light-touch approach, where people are not penalised for taking their own decisions, is being abused by a significant number of people.

I have lots of stats about what is happening locally, but basically we have had 800 positive cases in the last two weeks. We now have 43 people in hospital and six people in ICUs, and we have had 12 deaths since 1 October. It is for that reason—that is, the evidence—that I support the Government 100% on implementing the tiered system, because we really need to get the virus back under control.