Public Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:33 pm on 1st December 2020.

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Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields 2:33 pm, 1st December 2020

We are in a never-ending cycle of national and localised lockdowns and restrictions that are not working. The daily death toll remains high, and hundreds continue to die every single day. Infection rates are ever-shifting, and people are seeing their sacrifices and the impact on the liberties and freedoms in the wider community not yielding the results they were promised. This Government have squandered any goodwill they had and lost the confidence of the country and many in this place. I voted for the current lockdown through gritted teeth. It was to give the Government one last attempt to get the virus under control and sort out the shambles that is test, track, trace and isolate. They have failed. Thousands of contacts continue to be missed. As a result, thousands of people continue not to isolate and the virus continues to spread. Instead, the Government have used this pandemic as an excuse to bung our taxes to their mates, reaching new levels of chumocracy.

It is clear now that the Government are void of any proper strategy. Their mixed messaging and ever-shifting rules and regulations have caused confusion, so public health measures put in place are not being given enough time to embed properly into our everyday behaviour. I have repeatedly asked the Secretary of State and various Ministers what will be different this time that will mean that these new local lockdown measures will work. Each time I get the answer, “Mass testing.” Yet this mass testing is now community testing, as it transpired that there is no actual plan at all about how to carry it out, and it is still not in place. The long-awaited cost-benefit analysis was poor, but we do not really need it. We can all see what is happening to the economy. We can all see the impact this is having on loneliness, mental health, poverty, and delays in cancer treatments.

I do not accept that voting against these measures today is letting the virus rip. It is saying to the Government, “Come back with something else. Come back with something better and more acceptable.” We need a more sensible approach: one where we can live with the virus in the safest way possible, and that gives clear public health messaging; indicates how areas can move between, and in and out of, tiers; gives proper, equitable financial support to each area; protects the most vulnerable; and does not trash our economy.

I know that this is not easy for any of us, and we are grappling with a virus that, quite frankly, we still do not know enough about. But I also know that what is currently being done, and what we are about to repeat, has not worked and I do not think will work this time. Today I will be voting against these measures because I absolutely must do what I feel is best for my wider community.