Thursday 15 October 2020 / 12:05 PM Coronavirus / Jonathan Ashworth

Jonathan Ashworth responds the Health Secretary’s statement to the House on further coronavirus restrictions

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, responding to the Health Secretary’s statement to the House on further coronavirus restrictions, said:

“Given what we now about rising prevalence of the virus, given we know admissions to critical care are increasing.

“We understand why he has had to take the difficult decisions on Tier 2 for London and other areas including Erewash, Essex and Barrow.

“I hope will agree these decisions are most effective when made in tandem with local leaders.

“And let’s be clear, this public health intervention is not backed up by with a financial package to mitigate its impact on jobs and livelihoods.

“More people will fall into poverty and destitution.

“Families across Bury and Bolton, small businesses across Burnley and Hyndburn and London have been failed by the Chancellor.

“A stronger package of financial support is needed for Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas.

“The British people have made tremendous sacrifice already and now we are heading into the bleakest of winters.

“Much of this could have been avoided if the misfiring £12 billion Test and Trace had been fixed over the summer.

“Today new figures show just 62 per cent of contacts reached. That’s equivalent to 81,000 people not reached circulating in society even though they’ve been exposed to the virus.

“Another record low.

“Yesterday we learnt consultants working on test and trace are being paid over £6,000 a day to run this failing service. In a single week the government is paying these senior consultants more than they pay an experienced nurse in a year.

“Can the Secretary of State explain why such huge sums of money are being paid to consultants to run a service that is only getting worse.

“The Prime Minister said yesterday these new restrictions would bring the R below 1.

“But while virus growth is accelerated in northern regions, the embers are burning bright nationwide.

“Let me repeat to the House – and the Tory party is welcome to clip me again for Twitter, it will save my staff the trouble.

“A full national lockdown stretching for weeks and weeks like we went through in April, May and June– would be disastrous for society.

“It is why we are urging him to adopt a short, time-limited 2-3 week circuit break.

“To take back control of the virus, to reboot, and to fix test and trace.

“Protect the NHS.

“Save lives.

“SAGE recommended a circuit break.

“NHS providers say they are ‘urging politicians to listen to the scientific advice and move as fast and as decisively.’

“The SPI-M subgroup of SAGE – say a circuit break of two weeks will save almost 8,000 lives.

“And for all the ponderous blustering and carping from the Prime Minister, he told the House with some haste – as if he didn’t want his own backbenchers to realise –  ‘I rule out nothing of course.’

“So the Prime Minister has not ruled it out, which we welcome, so what are the government’s criteria for a national circuit break?

“How many hospital admissions?

“How much non-Covid care delayed?

“Dare I say it how many more deaths?

“Action needs to be taken right now. Plans need to be put in place today.

“Everyone accepts that the government were too slow in the spring.

“How certain is he that his government is not making the exact same mistake again with more catastrophic consequences?

“This is a moment in history.

“Look around.

“Can the Health Secretary explain why not a national circuit break now?

“Because if we do this in a few weeks or months’ time more lives and livelihoods will have been lost.

“So in the national interest I offer to work constructively with him today, to deliver the circuit break that is now needed.”