Amendment to the Motion

Part of Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve – in the House of Lords at 6:10 pm on 4th November 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench 6:10 pm, 4th November 2020

My Lords, I reluctantly support the thrust of these regulations but have a few strong concerns about the illogicality and unnecessary destructiveness of just some of them. I hope the Government may reconsider their position and find a way to introduce small but incredibly important changes, though I understand that once these regulations are passed, that may not be straightforward.

My first concern is that under Regulation 11, schools are exempt from restrictions on gathering. I agree with keeping schools open. However, the lockdown will be undermined by this, unless regular testing of secondary school children and compulsory wearing of masks in class are introduced. If we can test the whole of Liverpool, we can surely test children with these new rapid-result tests. Secondary school children are spreaders of Covid as much as adults are. Keeping schools open makes no sense at all in terms of the lockdown without the protections that I propose.

My second concern is about exercise. Regulation 6 rightly introduces exemptions from the restrictions on leaving home to enable people to take exercise—fabulous. Illogically, however, the Government have decided that this exercise cannot be done with a tennis racquet or golf club in your hand, even though these particular exercises are inherently socially distanced. In particular, children’s outdoor sports have all been prohibited. Yet children can sit in a classroom for hours without a mask, which is surely a far higher risk activity. When children’s social activities are restricted, outdoor sports should be a top priority for them for their mental and physical health. I earnestly ask the Government to reconsider this slightly crazy state of affairs.

On a totally different note, I have a third concern: these regulations should not exacerbate serious addictions. Why exclude vape shops—not normally places I visit, but still—from the list of businesses that can remain open for health purposes as listed in paragraph 47 of Schedule 1? Tobacco-related illnesses kill 70,000 people every year. The anti-smoking campaign has been hugely successful, and the 3.2 million vapers are ex-smokers or current smokers attempting to stop. Closing the vape shops could set back the anti-smoking campaign terribly badly. Will the Minister take away my request for vape shops to be slipped into that list of businesses that can remain open for health reasons?