Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:33 pm on 12th January 2021.

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Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden 5:33 pm, 12th January 2021

I had arranged a speech about schoolchildren’s access to the internet, but as I was sitting here waiting to speak, I decided that I wanted to say to the House, to the Minister and to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I have become increasingly alarmed at comments from Ministers, and comments in the papers and the rest of the media in the past few days, driving the message that people are not following the rules. This has been in order to make people feel bad about themselves. However, when I look at the places in London that I know have the highest rates of coronavirus, I see a straight line to poverty. I suggest to the Minister that if we actually want to drive down rates further, we have to give more support to people to self-isolate if they are contacted by Test and Trace and told that they have been near somebody who has got coronavirus. If we want to encourage carers and support workers to take up lateral flow tests, we have to give them the support to do it. Who wants to know that they have got the virus if they cannot afford to take the time off work? If the choice is feeding three children by going to work or ignoring those uncomfortable symptoms, I suspect I know the decision that most of us would make.

The boroughs in London that have the highest rates are those with the worst housing, where there is a family in every room, where they share a bathroom with people they do not know. What do we do for those people to ensure that they are in a position to self-isolate? I understand that in New York the way they drove rates down was by providing people who did not have it with the money, the hotel room, the food—they even offered to walk their dogs!—to encourage them to self-isolate.

Rather than the siren calls against people who are doing their best, what we need to do as a Government and as a society is say to people, “Go and get the test. We will help you to have your time off work. We will help you to treat your symptoms, because we want to put an end to the virus.” No help to them means increasing rates for all of us.