Wednesday 2 December 2020 / 4:42 PM Coronavirus / Jonathan Ashworth

Jonathan Ashworth responds to Health Secretary statement on Covid-19

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Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, speaking in response to the statement in the House of Commons from the Health Secretary on Covid-19, said:

“This is fantastic news about the Pfizer vaccine. I want to congratulate all involved in making this happen. We have rightly clapped carers throughout this crisis. We should applaud our scientists as well.

“It is incumbent on all of us across this House to make the case that vaccination saves lives. And if it helps I will stand alongside him, socially distanced of course, on any platform or in any studio to show we are united, cross party, in promoting vaccines

“Our constituents will have legitimate questions – will he launch a large scale public information campaign to answer questions and encourage uptake? Will he write to every household?

“We know dangerous myths circulate on social media, we offer to work with ministers on online harms.

“Hospital trust staff will start receiving the vaccine first and this is a massive logistical exercise given both the temperatures this vaccine needs to be stored at and the two doses needed.

“How many NHS staff are be expected to be vaccinated by January?

“And where does this leave social care and care home residents and staff?

“There are concerns that the vaccine cannot be moved multiple times to care homes – can the Secretary of State set out exactly how and when care home residents will receive a vaccine?

“For our constituents, when will primary care networks start rolling out vaccination?

“When will mass vaccination centres start opening in our communities?

“We have historic strengths with vaccination, but in recent years we have lost our measles free status, we know vaccination rates can often be lower in poorer and more vulnerable communities.

“We also know that while Covid-19 has affected everyone, the burden of the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the poorest, who are more likely to die than the richest.

“Will he ensure there is a health inequalities strategy so that black and minority ethnic groups, and the poorest and the most vulnerable don’t miss out on this vaccine?

“I think we all understand restrictions will remain in place for some time.

“Can he offer us a timeframe or target for when we achieve herd immunity and life gets back to normal?

“And in the meantime though, if someone is vaccinated, will they still have to isolate if contacted by Test and Trace or are they now released from that obligation?

“On mass testing – some Directors of Public Health have told me the lateral flow tests are not licensed for door to door testing in local hot spots and therefore all tests have to be administered at sites. If this is correct can he resolve it, if it’s not correct can he issue urgent clarity?

“In the Government’s document “Community testing: a guide for local delivery”, it suggests local areas can use mass testing as a freedom pass. What does this mean in practice?

“How will local areas enforce rules, if some people are able to follow different rules based on their testing status?

“In the house yesterday, the Prime Minister suggested that people may want to take advantage of mass testing ahead of visiting their families this Christmas, but what does this mean for people in areas that don’t have access to lateral flow testing?

“Will mass testing be rolled out in time for Christmas?

“We welcome the roll out of testing for family members of care home residents and increased testing for staff.

“However, the increase in staff and resident testing, alongside the introduction of visitor testing must be backed up by the additional resources to make this possible.

“If mass testing is to work in these communities, people will need support to isolate if it’s found they have Covid-19. Will Government, at the very least, expand the eligibility criteria for the £500 grant?

“This is a good news day and we should all pay tribute to everyone involved and I say again, we will work together to make the case that vaccinations save lives.”