Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:03 pm on 14th December 2020.

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Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 9:03 pm, 14th December 2020

The speeches we have heard this evening remind us just what hard times we live in, when we have had to do things that would have been unimaginable just a year ago. There are the things we have done to save lives, but sadly, even so, many lives have been lost. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out in his statement to this House earlier today and the Minister for prevention, public health and primary care, the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend Jo Churchill, reminded us in her opening remarks, this is not over yet.

I know that people in the places moving into tier 3 on Wednesday morning will feel a real sense of disappointment, especially as we get closer to Christmas. We have heard today some powerful contributions from across this House about how our constituents have been affected. For instance, my hon. Friend Mark Fletcher spoke about the impact of the restrictions on mental health, with the loss of routine, loss of social contact and loss of opportunities to pursue passions and activities that make life worth living—ice skating, as we have heard, but also dance classes. I should add to that the loss of livelihoods. Many colleagues have spoken about the impact on hospitality, and particularly pubs. Believe me, I really appreciate that, with a brewery as the largest employer in my constituency.

I also welcome the recognition and the tributes paid by hon. Members not only to the NHS and its workforce, but to care homes and care workers, who have indeed been there for the people they care for day in, day out throughout this pandemic. They are rightly prioritised for testing. I will pick up on a comment made by my hon. Friend Jacob Young and say that care agency staff absolutely should be tested regularly, using tests distributed to the care homes that they work at.