Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:35 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Antony Higginbotham Antony Higginbotham Conservative, Burnley 5:35 pm, 13th October 2020

It is always a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend and neighbour Sara Britcliffe.

I welcome the tiered system because it increases the simplicity of the messaging. That is very welcome, because it is what our constituents need more than anything else at the minute. The vast majority want to comply; they want to do the right thing. But for the past couple of weeks—I speak as the Member for Burnley, where we have had a higher case rate than most places in the country—the complexity of the messaging has been difficult. The next thing that they want is light at the end of the tunnel. They want to know that there is something to look forward to. Will Ministers look at the four-week review period to see if there is a way to bring that down? The worry is that at four weeks, if we are placed into extra restrictions—into tier 3—at some point next month, we are looking at Christmas before there is even a review of when those measures could be lifted.

As many Members have said, where this virus spreads, it spreads in the one thing we hold very close to each other—our relationships. We live together, we grieve together, we celebrate together, and we compete together. I get the sense from some that they think that the only option is to lock down completely. I do not think that is the right thing to do. We absolutely need to limit interactions, but it needs to be targeted in the right place, at the right time, for the right length of time. Sacrifice is important and it is sacrifice that will get us through this, but it cannot be without hope.

That brings me to test and trace, which is the best tool we have to make sure that our sacrifices are time-limited. We have an enormous testing capacity, and Ministers should be congratulated on that. We have done more than many other countries. But the capacity in itself does not protect us; what protects us is how we use it. I ask Ministers, either today or in the future, to update us on the rapid testing that will be delivered in five minutes or 20 minutes, because that is how we will get those human relationships back. That is how we will get football fans back into stadiums, children into schools when there is an outbreak, and all the other things that we want to do. If Ministers could do that, the hope that I spoke of that gives people a light at the end of the tunnel will come back.