Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:21 pm on 22nd October 2020.

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Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Conservative, Bosworth 3:21 pm, 22nd October 2020

It is a pleasure to speak in the general covid update debate. Last time I spoke, I welcomed the tiered approach the Government had put in place to deal with the covid virus, and today I am pleased to welcome the support the Government have put in place as a further measure that is more nuanced and more targeted to help those in most need. I have been asking questions today about road maps and plans for the future. If we start with the economic side, these questions are key. I met representatives of the Hinkley business improvement district last night, and one of the biggest questions they had was about what would happen if we moved from tier 1 to tier 2. I was pleased to be able to tell them that the Treasury and the Chancellor were listening. That message was heard, and new support was put in place. That security will be greatly welcomed in Bosworth and up and down the country.

The other thing that businesses need is some form of certainty and a road map of where they are going. We are lucky in this House to have a learned Friend in my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell, who is no longer in his place. He has highlighted areas about which I also have concerns after meeting constituents and businesses last Friday.

The wedding industry, the events and conference industry and the travel industry are all going to face difficulties because of the very nature of their business: the people business. The virus thrives on people’s interactions, and those industries feel as though they are now zombie businesses, because they are not officially closed, but they cannot open fully because there is no trade for them. I think it is reasonable to argue that, because of that, they need some certainty over what the future may hold for them, with a roadmap of how to get there and what the support might look like after we have made choices in the hospitality sector.

Equally, there are non-fiscal measures we can take. We can relook at the levers that we may be able to pull to allow a change of use or the extension of licensing, so that businesses like those in the wedding sector can use their facilities in a different way. After all, they are keen to be open and keen to innovate. The Government need to give them the chance to do so.

I was also pleased to hear today about a further roadmap relating to health. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago to the Health Secretary and to the House the importance of knowing where we are going and how we can innovate to get our way out. It is fantastic news that laminar flow testing is being rolled out, because until we have a vaccine, this is the way to enable people to take responsibility of their own testing in organisations and hopefully even in their personal situation. When people go to school, when they go to the hospital or when they come to Westminster, they will be able to test themselves, find that they are negative and carry on with their daily life. Of course, if they are positive, they will be followed up and isolated in the correct way. It is really important and will be a stalwart step until we get the vaccine.

In the Health Committee, I was pleased to hear from Professor Edmunds that SAGE feels that a vaccine is coming. That is important to factor in when we think about what lockdown measures to take, because there is a big difference between waiting for months and waiting for years. That comes with a word of caution. From the very start, Chris Whitty—both in private and public announcements—said that there are a range of measures that are easy to take and that all have a different weighted impact. If we are getting a vaccine and improved testing, we cannot lose sight of the simple basics that must be in place: hands, face, space. Without doing those things, it will be very hard to control the virus, even with the testing and when we start to roll out a mass vaccination. I am therefore keen that the Government are clear in articulating, and continue to push, the message of hands, face, space, because the virus has opened Pandora’s box, and what we really need to see is the guarded hope left.