Public Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 1st December 2020.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 6:45 pm, 1st December 2020

Yes; I was going to say that my hon. Friend need just ask, but I think he did. I will ensure that the national team and his local team at Warrington Council are put in touch right away, if they are not in touch already, because we are extending the availability of mass testing throughout tier 3 and throughout the wider area close to Liverpool, which Warrington was in tier 3 restrictions with until we went into national lockdown.

I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that, as the experience of Warrington and Liverpool shows, we can afford to let up a little, but we just can’t afford to let up a lot. Let that be the message that goes out from this House. We know through repeated experience what happens if the virus gets out of control. If it gets out of control, it grows exponentially, hospitals come under pressure and people die. This is not just speculation. It is a fact that has affected thousands of families, including my own. We talk a lot of the outbreak in Liverpool, and how that great city has had a terrible outbreak and got it under control. This means more to me than I can say, because last month my step-grandfather Derek caught covid there and on 18 November he died. In my family, as in so many others, we have lost a loving husband, father and grandfather to this awful disease, so from the bottom of my heart I want to say thank you to everyone in Liverpool for getting this awful virus under control. It is down by four fifths in Liverpool. That is what we can do if we work together in a spirit of common humanity. We have got to beat this and we have got to beat it together.

I know that there are costs to the actions we take—of course I know that—but let us not forget the impact of covid itself. First, there are the health impacts. People do not live with covid—we cannot learn to live with covid; people die with covid. There is also the economic impact directly from covid. Where someone has to self-isolate and their contacts have to self-isolate, that itself has an adverse impact on services in the economy. I understand why people are frustrated that it is impossible to put figures on the economic impacts, but they are uncertain and we are dealing with a pandemic that leads to so much uncertainty. The tiered system is designed specifically to be the best proportionate response we can bring together, with the minimum measures necessary to get the virus under control when it is too high, yet the fewer measures where prevalence is low. The only alternative is a national set of measures, which would have to be calibrated to bring the virus under control where it is high and rising, as it is in Kent right now. That is the principle behind the tiered system and why it is the best way forward this winter.