Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:29 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South 5:29 pm, 13th October 2020

This global pandemic has had a horrific impact—not only a huge human cost but a tremendous economic and social cost, caused by the measures that have had to be taken to contain the spread of the virus. None of us would want to be in the position of having to take these decisions, and I certainly do not envy the Minister for Health and other members of the Government who have to balance the need to safeguard both lives and livelihoods. It demands a combination of the judgment of Solomon and the navigational skills of Thetis to reach what is often the least bad outcome, in a situation where there are no right decisions and no good outcomes.

If we are to reassure not only the residents but the businesses in our constituencies, many of which provide the jobs, livelihoods and prosperity on which they rely, we need to be clear about the basis on which decisions are taken. I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for the openness with which he has approached this, making himself, his ministerial colleagues, scientific and medical advisers and officials available for a wide range of briefings on that evidence.

In the minute I have left, I want to speak briefly about the obligations on the hospitality sector. Clearly these measures have a hugely detrimental impact on pubs, bars, restaurants and the many small businesses that rely on them, whether in the brewing, events or wedding industries. We need to be clear about the evidence on the extent of transmission in hospitality and similar settings and what has led officials’ and advisers’ clear confidence that the measures being taken will make a meaningful difference. At the briefing last Friday, the chief medical officer said it was too early to be sure about the extent to which the restricted opening times in the last three weeks had made a difference, but he was sure that it had made a difference. As that data becomes available, it needs to be shared with Members of Parliament and with our constituents.