Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) (No. 6) Regulations 2021 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 15th December 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Birt Lord Birt Crossbench 12:30 pm, 15th December 2021

My Lords, this is overwhelmingly a public health issue and, at heart, not a complex one. We all agree that we should constrain our freedoms only for a good reason. Not drinking and driving at the same time would be a good reason. The good reason here is the overwhelming nature of the scientific advice. I have participated, as have many of your Lordships, in the briefings we have had from all the leading scientists who advise the Government. The airwaves are full of professors who know their stuff and who also advise, and there is a real scientific consensus about the problem we face.

It is simple at heart: this particular variant of the virus is much more transmissible than any variant we have seen before, and the scientists are clear that they do not yet know how severe its symptoms will be. We can all be hopeful; there is some evidence from South Africa that the symptoms are mild, but the scientists tell us not to jump to conclusions, because you cannot easily translate the South African experience to our own. Its population is far younger and has hitherto been much more infected by other forms of the virus. We cannot assume that what has happened in South Africa will happen here.

We have used the word “exponential”; it is a powerful word. It means, as the scientific modelling has demonstrated, that the numbers double every few days. You do not need more than O-level maths to know that, after not many days, you get to a very large number indeed. If the symptoms turn out to be severe, the combination of those large numbers and more severe symptoms would be devastating and the NHS would be overwhelmed. That is why this action is prudential. It is not definitive, but is prudential and entirely justified. I support the Government.