Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (High) (England) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Lilley Lord Lilley Conservative 5:00 pm, 14th October 2020

My Lords, I congratulate the Prime Minister on resisting the pressure for a renewed lockdown. Fewer than 1% of those dying from Covid have been of working age with no comorbidities, so our main aim is to protect the elderly and the frail.

There are two possible strategies. One is to help the elderly and frail avoid succumbing to the infection and the second is to limit the spread of the infection, primarily among those of working age who are unlikely to succumb themselves, but who may infect the elderly and frail. These strategies are not mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, in the regulations we are debating, the Government have put the bulk of their effort into the second strategy. But focusing on the economically and socially active all too often reduces economic activity, destroying livelihoods. I urge Ministers to try to avoid measures that disproportionately harm economic activity, with little likely effect on the rate of infection. The most obvious example of this is the 10 o’clock rule.

At the same time, the Government should put more emphasis on enabling the elderly and frail to avoid infection. In Germany, elderly people in multigenerational households are enabled to live separately in otherwise unused hotel space. Why not also give much more prominent advice to everyone, especially the elderly, to take vitamin C and zinc supplements and to lose weight, all of which will help them be less vulnerable to not only Covid but other ailments?

Testing should be the best the best way to help to protect the elderly and to minimise the adverse impacts of these regulations on the economy. On 14 September, I tabled a Question for Written Answer to try to clarify the Government’s position on this. I referred to the claim by the Secretary of State for Transport that testing could not be used to minimise quarantine for travellers because

“even using highly accurate tests, the capture rate of those carrying Covid-19 may actually be as low as 7%.”—[Official Report, 9/9/20; col. 775.]

What scientific evidence is there for this capture rate? What period after infection did it refer to, and if tests were not identifying infectious visitors to this country, why are we relying on the same tests for the staff and visitors to old people’s homes?

The Question was due to be answered on 28 September, but officials are clearly struggling to find one. I would be grateful if the Minister could either give the answer himself or tell me when I will receive an answer. Whatever it is, it may well have a bearing on the sort of regulations and strategy that we should be following.