Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:25 pm on 14th December 2020.

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Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Conservative, Bosworth 8:25 pm, 14th December 2020

Thanks, hope, change—three positive words that it is lovely to use in this debate. I want to put on record my thanks to all the scientists, researchers, staff, communications guys and the Government for getting it right last week and getting a vaccine out there. It really is the game changer and the hope that we have been looking for. As has been said many times in this House, the roll-out will be slow and steady, and things are not over yet—not for this month, for next month or for the months to come—but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we have the opportunity to start to get things back to normal and see the change that we want. I welcome the news of the vaccine, and more in the pipeline, because it is what everyone has been hoping for.

I welcome, too, the fact that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Ministers, listened carefully when Leicestershire MPs said that we wanted to be decoupled from Leicester. That was not because of some form of covid nimbyism, but simply because we have had lived experience throughout the entire summer of what our people do, how they react and what goes on. I hope that Leicester gets as much support as possible to fight the virus, bring the numbers down and make a difference. With that in mind, if we are being led by the evidence, I would like to see a push for a borough-based model, based on our lived experience in Hinckley and Bosworth. As my hon. Friend Jacob Young rightly pointed out, if our constituents are following the rules and making the difference but the evidence is changing, so should the tier system. All we ask is to be given the power to do that. When the data comes through, I hope that will be the case.

A lot has changed during the pandemic. We talk about lockdowns now, but if we think back to what happened in March, we can see that the recent lockdowns and the tier system are completely different. The Government have rightly changed and focused their emphasis. They focused on the NHS, and on making sure it was not overwhelmed. More importantly, we were able to continue non-covid procedures, investigations and treatments. The Government then focused on education, and on getting kids back to school so that they did not fall behind. That, in turn, has allowed people to get to work, which was the third focus: opening non-essential retail and businesses. On the next level, leisure activities, the gym, welfare, getting out to see people and looking after ourselves mentally and physically have been prioritised. Those are all levers that we can pull but, alas, that means that socialising and hospitality come last.

Given that there is light at the end of the tunnel, however, change can happen. I would like to see support for the hospitality sector—for pubs and restaurants—in the short term to help them to get through, but let us not forget the other industries that will take the longest to come out of this: events, conferences, the wedding industry and, of course, travel. I welcome the fact that the Government are making strides wherever they can and using the taskforce to help, and that is good news for those industries. We can now see where we want to go in April, May and June. We have the potential to lay out a plan, albeit in draft, so that we can say to these businesses, “This is what you can start to work towards.” As someone who got married last year, I know that trying to plan a wedding in a few weeks is not something that my wife would have wanted to do.

One thing that struck me when I was driving around from Newbold Verdon to Hinckley was how much life is starting to return to normal. It must be so hard for a pub or restaurant owner to see people going about their normal day-to-day working lives, but to be unable to make that change. We should keep that in our minds going forward to try to balance protecting the NHS and protecting livelihoods.

As we come to Christmas, and this is likely to be the last chance—I hope—to speak from the Government Benches before the new year, our minds are focused on that new year and the hope that is coming. Although I urge policy change, some things need to stay the same: caring for each other at Christmas. It is going to be particularly difficult for those who are choosing to isolate—lonely people. So we should pick up the phone, get on that Zoom or Teams call, and speak to neighbours, friends and families. Of course, the piece of Government advice that should never be lost and should stay the same until we have all had the vaccine is: hands, face, space, get a test.