Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:26 pm on 14th December 2020.

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Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 7:26 pm, 14th December 2020

I thank the hon. Member for his point, and I can absolutely understand why, from his point of view, he might think that. What I would also say is that there were moments when we thought the south-east was going down, and now we have this variant and it is going up. What we do not know is how many people had been travelling from one area to the other or, indeed, what is going to come next, unless it were the case that the virus and R were going down in case numbers everywhere in the country and there was suppression.

I will for a moment digress on the three steps that the all-party group on coronavirus suggested that the Government follow. One is control—control was the lockdown—which means bringing R below 1, so that there is some headroom. Yes, it is making use of test, trace and isolate, but it also makes the point that places that do have locally led test, trace and isolate programmes are doing better, and that needs to be followed absolutely everywhere. It needs to be something that we take very seriously, and if local areas need extra support and money to do so, they should get it.

Step 2 is the bit that is missing: suppress before we get to eliminate the virus, which comes with the vaccine. Suppress is characterised by all areas, by and large, going down in the tiers, but we have never seen that. As we have gone down in tiers, almost immediately the rate starts to go up again, and that is the problem. By releasing restrictions too quickly, we end up in this boom and bust situation with the virus, and that is what is so damaging to businesses. What we suggest is that we keep people in the lowest possible tier, but that the tiers are beefed up more than they are now. Bluntly, if we stay there for longer and are honest with people, that allows businesses to plan.

Then we move to eliminate phase, which comes with the vaccine, if we get to that point. That is how we see ourselves through in the short and medium term, not just in the long term.