Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:10 pm on 22nd October 2020.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee of Privileges, Chair, Committee of Privileges 4:10 pm, 22nd October 2020

In this case, the point is that we will not achieve herd immunity just by trying to let everyone get the disease. That is an immoral proposition. We have all heard the line that this virus is not that dangerous and is less dangerous than flu. I am sure that we have all had emails about it. The facts—and again there are no alternative facts here—are that covid is more easily transmitted than flu and has more complications for more people. Between January and August 2020, there were 48,168 deaths due to covid-19—not associated with it—compared with 13,619 deaths due to pneumonia and 394 deaths due to influenza. The number of deaths due to covid up to 31 August this year was higher than those due to influenza and pneumonia in every single year since 1959, including years when we did not have a vaccine for flu.

The other theme of the great declaration is supposed to be focused protection. Again, that sounds great—“let’s protect the most vulnerable”—but we cannot just shut the elderly and vulnerable away and throw away the key. They do not live in hermetically sealed units, funnily enough. They rely on nurses, carers, home helps and family members. All those people would presumably have to be locked away. Is somebody going to suggest that the most vulnerable communities—in fact, the BAME community—are en masse all going to be locked away, as well as the overweight, no doubt, and all the men? Of course, that is a complete and utter nonsense. By one estimate, we would be incarcerating a quarter of the whole UK population.

There is a cruelty at the heart of this proposal: it is basically survival of the fittest. Yes, it does make me angry when people propose it. It makes me angry for those who have lost loved ones this year, who seem to be ignored. It makes me angry for the NHS staff who have slogged their way through the misery on our behalf and need us all to realise that there is a much better creed than survival of the fittest, and it is that we are all in this together.