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

It will probably be helpful if we pursue the specific case outside the Chamber. I just wanted to reiterate the importance of care agency staff being tested in care homes. Tests are being distributed to care homes for that purpose.

Whenever the Government have to take difficult decisions, such as the ones we have taken today, the impact of those decisions on people across the country is always at the front of our mind. With a 14% rise in average daily cases last week and a 13% rise in daily hospital admissions, we had no option but to act today, even ahead of the formal review point on Wednesday. As the Secretary of State reminded us earlier, Germany had to introduce tougher restrictions over the weekend, and Sweden is seeing real pressures on intensive care beds. As we set out in our winter plan, our strategy has always been to suppress the virus and prevent our NHS from becoming overwhelmed until the vaccine can make us safe.

I know that hon. Members will share my sense of optimism that, just as many other parts of the country have done so magnificently, the areas now facing rising rates can turn this around. They are getting the support they need to do that, right where it is needed most, including through the provision of community testing, with millions of newly invented tests targeted at the areas that need that support. I know that the Members representing those areas will want to play their part in this effort, so I can say that today we published a guide for Members so that colleagues can promote, support and champion local community testing and contact tracing in their areas.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend Craig Mackinlay, who spoke about how he had seen people become more careful in his area as they saw rates rise locally. He saw their behaviour change through the increased wearing of face masks, for instance, as people took the extra steps to keep themselves and others safe. That is a reminder that ultimately, all our efforts must be underpinned by a sense of personal responsibility. Our national effort begins with every one of us.

We all know what a difficult year it has been, yet that does not make those important public health messages any less true. As several hon. Members have reminded us this evening, we must continue to wash our hands, cover our face and make space. We must continue to self-isolate when we are asked to, for the 10 days now required. Perhaps even more challenging than that, though, we must be unafraid to ask ourselves difficult questions about who we are meeting, their vulnerability and whether that is a risk worth taking. Time and again, the common sense of the British people has prevailed, and it must continue to do so.

Finally, our vaccine deployment continues apace, because we know that vaccines represent our best route out of these difficult times. It is such a relief to be able to say about vaccination not if, but when. Tens of thousands of people have already been vaccinated, and GP roll-out started today in hundreds of parts of the country, so many more will be vaccinated this week, like the relatives my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) and for South Thanet mentioned.