Monday 14 June 2021 / 9:01 PM Coronavirus / Jonathan Ashworth

Jonathan Ashworth responds to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s statement on Coronavirus restrictions

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, responding to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s statement on Coronavirus restrictions

said:

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

Tonight’s announcement was predicted and sadly predictable.

Our constituents and local businesses in our constituencies will be deeply disappointed. They deserve ongoing financial support.

And our constituents did what was asked of them. They queued up for vaccination. He praised them in this House.

The Secretary of State shed tears on the news and boasted ‘cry freedom’ on the pages of the Spectator.

Yet now we’re in the grip of a Delta wave spreading with speed and our constituents face further restrictions.

The Prime Minister’s complacency allowed this variant to reach our shores.

On March 25th there were warnings of a new variant in India. It’s reported that the minister first learnt the Delta variant was in the UK on 1st April.

The Government red listed Pakistan and Bangladesh on April 9th. And didn’t red list India until April 23. By which time 20,000 people had arrived from India

Our borders were as secure as a sieve. And all because he wanted a photo call with Prime Minister Modi.

It’s astonishing that these ministers who promised to take control of our borders, conspicuously failed to control our borders at the very moment it mattered most.

And not only did the Prime Minister open the backdoor to this variant, he failed to take measures to suppress it when he could.

It’s been growing in prevalence amongst school age children. Yet mandatory mask wearing has been abandoned in secondary schools and the Secretary of State has never explained why despite repeatedly being asked.

We know isolation is key to breaking transmission. And yet 16-months on people are still not paid adequate financial support to isolate themselves.

When asked why at the Select Committee last week he claimed people would ‘game’ the system

The only ones who game the system are the mates of ministers, Tory donors, spivs and speculators who have made a fortune supplying duff PPE.

He seeks support for extending restrictions by pointing to plans to go further on vaccination.

Well we will support extending restrictions in the lobbies.

Even after 10 million extra doses are delivered, 42 per cent of the population will still be unprotected having had one dose or none, exposed to a variant spreading and which if left unchecked could accelerate and double every week, putting us on track for tens of thousands of infections per day by the end of this extension period.

That will mean more hospitalisations from this virus, and waiting list for other NHS treatment and cancer care getting longer

It means more long Covid when already one million suffer from it, more disruption to schools, after a year of lost learning and more opportunities for variants to emerge.

Will the Prime Minister lift restrictions in those circumstance as he appeared to promise tonight or do infections rates and hospitalisations have to fall before he does so?

Vaccination will get us through this in end.

What then is the plan to bring down infections and increase vaccinations in hotpot areas?

Finally, hotspot areas like Leicester have been told its surge vaccination is ending.

Hotspot areas like Chorley, Tameside, Salford, Wigan have seen a drop in vaccine doses delivered

Has surge vaccination now been abandoned in hotspot areas across Greater Manchester and Leicester despite having lower than average vaccination rates?

We are more likely to see more cases, and more contacts of infected people, in the coming days; will he finally give those people isolation support so that they can isolate and quarantine themselves from the rest of society?

Mr Speaker, As the CMO said we would be lifting restriction on time if it was not for the Delta variant.

The Prime Minister should have moved at lighting speed to prevent the Delta variant reaching our shores.

Instead he dithered and tonight is responsible for this delay.