Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:49 pm on 12th January 2021.

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Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 4:49 pm, 12th January 2021

It goes without saying that we must use this opportunity to thank all our public health workers, as well as our journalists and broadcasters. My favourite is Victoria Macdonald from Channel 4, who seems to portray the pain and suffering, and yet the strength and solidarity of our health workers; a huge thank you to all our broadcasters and journalists, who are doing such a good job of keeping us informed.

I regret that the Government did not tackle soon enough a review back in the summer of what went wrong in the first wave, which in my view has led to our being in a third wave. Had we had an effective review in the summer and, for example, introduced testing in schools on 1 September, we might not be in the situation that we are in now.

On the question of long covid, I am on the all-party group, with many Members from across the House. We know that there is not a proper care pathway. I think of a 40-year-old constituent of mine who has not recovered, even though he suffered from covid last April. It is now coming up to 10 months and he still has not seen a specialist because he was never in accident and emergency and within a proper care pathway. We must urgently address that dreadful long-covid syndrome, which is affecting so many people who are recovering from covid.

I put on record my regret that we did not tackle the isolation strategy with enough energy, and with enough understanding of the lives of people who work in insecure roles, who desperately need to be compensated, whether for taxi driving or being a security guard. In all those insecure jobs, they need to be paid to stay at home. I also put on record, as many have in the debate, the 3 million excluded. It is probably more than 3 million. The work of the all-party group is very important, but it is particularly the creative sector that is terribly affected by the covid crisis. It has been going on for several months. People feel that there is no way out and they are feeling absolutely desperate.

In particular, I ask the Minister, first, whether nurseries will stay open. If they do, will nursery nurses be put forward for early vaccinations? Will dentists be higher up the list? They are very at risk because of their work, in terms of the covid germs. No. 3 is optometrists and then, of course, other professionals such as teachers. Also, prisoners, prison officers and prison educators are very much at risk of covid. Will the Minister please take back to the Justice Secretary the question of whether classes in prisons should be going ahead at the moment? I would not want anyone not to be protected from this terrible virus.