Public Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:40 pm on 1st December 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (International Trade) 3:40 pm, 1st December 2020

I am very pleased that my constituents in Sefton Central are now in tier 2, because they were in the old tier 3. What I want to say today is that the experience of my constituents, who live in one of the six boroughs of the Liverpool city region that are in that position, leaves clues about what has worked and what has been missing.

I start by saying thank you to my constituents and the people of the city region for their hard work, their solidarity and the way they have come together to reduce the infection rate; thank you to the NHS staff in our hospitals in particular, who have reduced the number of people in hospitals with covid illness; and thank you to our council staff and to the military for administering the mass testing pilots and, in the case of the council staff, for taking on some of the responsibility for contact tracing too.

As I have said, the experience leaves clues about what has not worked as well. Mass testing is not the whole answer by any means. It is part of the reason we are now in tier 2 instead of tier 3, as is the fact that we went into tier 3 so early, but it has taken 2,000 military personnel to administer mass testing. Where are the military personnel to deliver this, whether it is called mass testing or community testing, elsewhere? That mass testing has only been in the city of Liverpool, not in the other five boroughs. My constituents have been able to access it when they have gone into Liverpool, but not in our own borough.

The experience in the poorest areas has been that the lack of financial support has stopped people self-isolating because they have not been able to. The Government must address that if they want people to be able to self- isolate. The same is true of people who are self-employed, freelancers or people who run their own firms who have run out of money and have not had support since March. This must be addressed if we are to get through to the vaccine, which is really what these regulations are about—giving us a way forward.

The regulations will only work if they are supported by a proper test, trace, isolate and support regime. That must see the financial support I have mentioned, but it must also end the delays in getting the contacts from the centralised call centres to local government and feeding them back in, because at the moment that communication problem is causing delays. It is one of the contributory factors still to the fact that 500,000 people a month are not being contacted. If these problems are not addressed, I am afraid we still face the bleakest of midwinters.