Thursday 17 December 2020 / 12:03 PM Jonathan Ashworth

Jonathan Ashworth responds to Hancock’s statement in the Commons

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, responding to the Health Secretary’s Covid-19 and tiers statement in the Commons, said:


“Mr Speaker

“In these past 12-month covid has spread with speed and severity.

“Over 65,000 have died in the UK.

“At least 620 of them health and care workers made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

“Over 240,000 have been treated in hospital with the disease.

“What gives this virus such a lethal advantage is that people who appear healthy can go about their lives while transmitting the virus to others

“So we of course accept and understand why he has to move areas into higher tiers.

“But why are so many places getting worse, why are the tiers not doing enough to contain the spread of the virus?

“Two weeks ago he said “we have the virus under control” and that “we cant risk letting cases rise again, especially into Christmas”

“But that’s exactly what’s happening. isn’t it?

“Yesterday England reported over 23,000 cases – the highest number in over a month.

“Hospital admissions on 14th December were the highest since 16th April.

“The number of people in hospital with Covid is now the highest since 22nd April.

  “That number has risen 20% since the end of lockdown – if it goes up by another 20% we are back at the same peak we saw in April.

“These numbers should be sounding all the alarms bells there are –

  “Its why clinicians are pleading with him to put robust arrangements in place to keep people safe through Christmas.

“We saw in Canada and the US huge spikes in infections following Thanksgiving.

“We will see a spike here.

“This isn’t about cancelling Christmas, Santa will still deliver his presents.

 “But is he really telling us that allowing indoor mixing of 3 households, across regions and generations, for 5 days is sensible given the virus is raging with such ferocity at the moment?

 “The devastating tragedy is that those who will be most impacted by this virus spreading through the easing are those who would be at the front of queue for the vaccine in the next month or two.

“Will he look again at the Christmas arrangements?

“On vaccination.

“With more than 130,000 vaccinated in first week.

 “To vaccinate every older person, vulnerable person and key worker by Easter, we’ll need to something like double that – every day.

 “The NAO this week said £11.7 billion for the programme will be needed alongside 46,0000 extra staff

“How much is allocated to the vaccine programme?

“How many staff have been taken on and trained to support the vaccination programme and when will see the mass vaccination centres opened?

  “There are warnings vaccine rollout in primary care will take longer than planned  because existing software systems keep crashing, the system doesn’t alert GPs if patients on their list have already had it in hospital.

“GPs are forced to turn to pen and paper for data capture.

 “When will there be a national call and recall system for GPs and why wasn’t it ready for rollout?

“And with back to school in January. Will he also provide some clarity around testing in schools?

“There is speculation that the opening of schools will be delayed by a week in January, to give time to get mass testing up and running. Is this the Government’s plan?

“Finally, this has been a dismal year but our NHS and care workers have, as always, done us proud.

“Can I put on record my thanks to all of them many of whom who will be working over the Christmas and New Year period.

“I also thank all working on the response to covid – departmental officials, our medical science community, our public health teams as well.

“And with that can I wish you Mr Speaker, all working in the house and indeed the Secretary of State a safe Christmas and happy new year.”