Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:18 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Munira Wilson Munira Wilson Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Health and Social Care) 5:18 pm, 13th October 2020

It is a pleasure to follow Tom Tugendhat. As he pointed out, there is some significant uncertainty about when we might have a vaccine, so there are two critical levers to tackling this virus: one is public trust, which the Government can achieve by taking people with them on the measures that they seek to implement; the other is a functioning, locally led, test, trace and isolate system.

On public trust, the Government have made much of following the science. Yesterday, we found out that there were plenty of recommendations from SAGE that the Government chose not to follow. The legislation that we are considering is before us today. That may be so, but it is up to politicians to make policy decisions and advisers to advise. To build public trust, the Government need to explain their thinking. What are their trade-offs? They need to show their working. When they have considered these measures, what are the wider health impacts of not taking them? What are the economic impacts of taking these measures? People need to see for themselves, and there must be trust from the public in following the new measures. I strongly agree that clarity of message is important for public trust.

Many Members have mentioned following the science, and my hon. Friend Daisy Cooper made a passionate argument about the curfew, which we know is resulting in other behaviours that frankly put public health and those businesses at risk. A publican in my constituency said, “We will just have to make up for the lost income by encouraging people to drink earlier in the day,” with bottomless brunches and so on. That binge drinking will happen earlier, or in people’s homes after the pubs have shut.

The Minister will have heard my earlier interventions on test, trace and isolate, and I believe that the 90 pages of complex rules and regulations would not be necessary if we had a properly functioning system. We got the R rate below one in the national lockdown, and on 23 April the Secretary of State said:

“Test, track and trace will be vital to stop a second peak of the virus.”

I know he likes to talk about his very large testing system, but we have had all sorts of issues with data, and sadly he was making jokes about that in the Smoking Room last week, apparently.