Local Contact Tracing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:23 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Ben Everitt Ben Everitt Conservative, Milton Keynes North 5:23 pm, 14th October 2020

It feels like a world ago when I was taken aside by my hon. Friend on the Front Bench, Jo Churchill, and told that Milton Keynes would be hosting a coronavirus quarantine centre for the repatriation of British nationals and their dependants returning from Wuhan. Shortly after that, we heard the sad news that one of the first deaths of a hospital patient who had tested positive for coronavirus had occurred in Milton Keynes University Hospital. I think about that moment a lot.

Since then, the world has changed. We learn new things about this virus and our ability to deal with it every day. We have had challenges, and we have overcome them. There will be more challenges ahead. We know that this virus thrives in cold, damp environments with low levels of ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and that transmission overwhelmingly occurs indoors. Cold, damp environments where we are overwhelmingly indoors are known in the UK as autumn and winter. These seasons are against us, and positive cases are rising.

That is why we all have a part to play. We must control the virus, protect lives and protect livelihoods until a vaccine can keep us safe. A big part of that is the app. The good people of Milton Keynes are famously tech savvy, and I am sure that many have already downloaded the NHS covid-19 app, but I must strongly encourage everyone to do so. It is a huge part of dealing with the virus and a huge part of test and trace.

It is not just about downloading the app; it is about what we do with our lives. It is about hands, face, space; the rule of six; understanding the rules and restrictions in our local tier; and, crucially—I say this to Opposition Members—it is about working together to defeat the virus. With winter just around the corner, now is not the time to be promoting alternative test and trace systems or undermining public confidence in the work of our NHS and public health professionals. We continue to expand our support for the local approach with a national framework. The experience of other countries shows that we need a national approach, because otherwise, the local test and trace operations simply will not join up.

My hon. Friend the Minister referenced the Lighthouse lab in Milton Keynes. I am immensely proud to represent Milton Keynes North in this place. We have robots, e-scooters and driverless cars. We have companies that are mining for water on the moon, and we have the most fantastically productive and brilliant people in this country. Of course Milton Keynes was selected to host one of the first Lighthouse labs. We now have robot freezers capable of processing up to 150,000 test results a day. Milton Keynes makes a fantastic contribution to our national effort.

The stunning achievement of getting that lab up and running has been down to amazing co-operation between the public sector, the private sector and the military—all working together, as we should in a national emergency. The Labour party wants to remove the private sector from test and trace. We have been able to ramp up testing to more than 134,000 a day only with the support, co-operation and innovation of the private sector. Some 22,000 of the 30,000 ventilators were produced by the private sector. The vaccine trials are being run by the private sector, including the potential game changer in Operation Moonshot. Dexamethasone, the first proven therapy for this horrible disease, is being produced at scale by the private sector. Thirty-two billion items of PPE have been provided by the private sector, keeping our health and social care professionals safe as they do their heroic work. Now is not the time to play ideological games with our response to a public health emergency. Now is the time to work together. Now is the time to use every lever possible to save lives, protect the NHS and beat this virus.