Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 11th November 2020.

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Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Conservative, South Cambridgeshire 7:15 pm, 11th November 2020

I will try to be as brief as I can. I want to start by paying tribute to the people of South Cambridgeshire who have helped us all get through this pandemic—the care workers, the volunteers, the medical staff, the nurses and doctors, who have been working heroically, but also people from the private sector. I have found it very dismaying that the opposition parties have spent so long attacking the private sector. In my constituency, they have been developing the ventilators and doing genome decoding of coronavirus. They have developed the tests—a whole range of different tests—and they are producing the tests and delivering the tests for the Government. Most of the coronavirus tests are done in the private sector, not the public sector. They have developed rapid mass testing, but also the vaccine. We have heard a lot about this vaccine from Pfizer—and the whole country is hoping—but there is another vaccine from AstraZeneca, and its global headquarters are in South Cambridgeshire. We are all expecting results from that in a few weeks’ time, which will hopefully be as good as the Pfizer results. Again, that is a vaccine of which the Government in their wisdom, under Kate Bingham’s leadership, have bought a large stock.

In South Cambridgeshire, the balance that we have heard about from various Members—between lives and livelihoods, between lives and liberties—has been a particularly difficult decision. We have one of the lowest infection rates in the country, and we have had only one death from coronavirus in the last five months. A lot of companies have complained quite vociferously, and understandably, about the imposition of a national lockdown, but I have come to agree with the Government that it is actually needed, because cases have been taking off. We are now seeing that in South Cambridgeshire in recent days, and cases are now at a record level.

I want to make a few, very quick suggestions of what I think the Government could do or should think about doing to help reassure the public that they have got the right balance. One is that they could produce a cost-benefit analysis, with the quality-adjusted life years that they use in other areas; on the Treasury Committee, we have been looking at that. They could use the World Health Organisation definition of deaths, which is people who die from coronavirus, rather than with coronavirus, or if they have had it in the last 28 days. That is the standard international definition, and it is lower. They could provide an official estimate of the case fatality rate, which is the proportion of people who have the infection and die. That, by quite a few estimates, has dropped really quite sharply—by about two thirds—since the start. On 2 December, when the national lockdown ends, they could move to a more aggressive regional approach with a tier 4, which I know the Government are thinking about. With this, I think the Government will provide a lot more reassurance that they are getting the balance right, and it will help us get through this.