Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:31 pm on 18th November 2020.

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Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care) 4:31 pm, 18th November 2020

I heard the point that the test had been clear that nothing wrong had been done, which, frankly, is a very low bar. I do not think anybody would say that there was nothing that happened in the early procurement phases that we would not perhaps want to change or do better later. I hope that the Paymaster General in winding up might reflect on that.

Perhaps this is the best place to say that the announcement on long covid will be very much welcomed by a lot of people, including my good friend Jo Platt who has been campaigning on this for many months, as well as living with her long covid. This is a story for lots of people up and down the country, across all our constituencies, who are living with the after-effects of this horrible virus over and over again. The act of knowing that they are being heard, as well as the 40 clinics, will be a real tonic to a great number of people, so we very much welcome that.

I turn to inequalities. At the beginning of the pandemic, we talked about the virus being a great leveller, not distinguishing between us depending on our lives, our jobs and our postcodes, but nine months on we know that to be patently untrue. Sixty per cent. of those who died were living with disabilities. Those of Bangladeshi heritage are twice as likely to die as those who are white British. Those of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and black Caribbean ethnicities are 10% to 15% more likely to die than I am. Mortality rates in the most deprived communities are more than twice those of the least deprived communities. This pandemic has shone a light on our inequalities, whether that means the inequality in work, in housing or in income, and these inequalities have had tragic consequences for some and, in the aggregate, are catastrophic for all of us.

When we beat this virus, which together we will, what comes out of it must be a fair settlement that recognises these inequalities as bad and tackles them head-on. That is why it is already concerning to see again—of course, leaked to national newspapers—that the overseas aid budget is the first on the chopping block. In 2010, the Government chose to target those who had the least to pay for a crisis that they did not cause, and these reports are a sign that maybe this is the plan again. We will not let them repeat this in 2020. It simply would be hugely unjust.

Before I finish, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our incredible NHS and social care staff for all they have done for us. They are truly the best of Britain. Similarly, the pandemic has revealed the key workers all over our communities and all over our economy, so this week, during Respect for Shopworkers Week, I would like to say a special thank you to those working in our shops, keeping us fed, but still facing rising violence and abuse every day. The Government should take better action to protect you—the Government could, of course, adopt my private Member’s Bill and I encourage them to do so—but whether it is that or through another mechanism, we will fight for you until they do.

In conclusion, now more than ever we must stand together as a country, as families and as communities, and show once again that at a moment of national crisis, the British people always rise to the challenge, support those who need it and pull together. That involves not only recognising successes, but assertively tackling the failures that have held us back during the pandemic. If we address these, we will beat this virus.