Thursday 1 October 2020 / 12:19 PM Health / Jonathan Ashworth

Jonathan Ashworth’s speech for the 10pm curfew debate in the Commons today

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, speaking in the 10pm curfew debate in the Commons today, said:

 

We have a long winter ahead.

 

We know that sustained contact, especially in crowded poorly ventilated spaces, is a driver of infection.

 

Pubs and bars are an obvious risk  – I heard what he said about the 10 PM rule but our concerns relate to everyone leaving the pub at the same time, so what action is he taking this weekend so we don’t see a repeat this weekend of people piling out into city centres and packed out public transport, or sometimes piling into a supermarket to buy more drink?

 

What action is he taking so we don’t see a repeat this weekend of people piling out into city centres and packed out public transport? If we see a repeat of those problems will he impose further restrictions nationwide?

 

We understand the need for local restrictions including in Merseyside, as announced.

 

But restrictions extract a heavy social and economic toll.

 

Areas need tailored financial support otherwise existing inequalities – which themselves have a health impact and allow the virus to thrive – will be exacerbated.

 

People need clarity.

 

Areas like Leicester, parts of Greater Manchester, Bradford and West Yorkshire have had restrictions imposed on them for months now.

 

Millions of people in these local lockdowns across the North and Midlands need reassurance that an end is in sight.

 

Many want to know if they will be able to visit their loved ones in the coming school half term for example.

 

Has he now ruled out a so called ‘circuit break’ across half term?

 

Some of the heaviest increases in infection are in areas with restrictions, so why are interventions not working? Why are the moles not getting whacked?

 

Yesterday the Prime Minister suggested that the success of Luton in leaving restrictions was because of people pulling together.

 

But people across Bolton, Bury and Rossendale are also pulling together, so what additional help will they receive to drive the virus down?

 

Ministers lost precious ground in fighting this virus by not having an effective test, trace and isolate regime in place by the end of summer.

 

Testing and tracing is key to control the virus.

 

Increasing evidence shows the importance of backward contact tracing in controlling outbreaks.

 

Is backward contact tracing routinely happening in areas of restriction and will he publish data on backward contacts reached?

 

We support the call from the Health Select Committee for routine testing of all NHS staff – will he now finally set a date for introducing it?

 

Problems with testing remain.

 

On 8 September he told the select committee that the problems with testing would be resolved ‘in the coming weeks’. This was more than three weeks ago.

 

Yet a test still takes:

  • 30 to 31 hours to be turned around for in person tests
  • 75 hours for home test kits
  • And 88 hours – more than three and a half days – for test results in satellite test centres predominantly used by care homes

 

So he hasn’t resolved the problem, when will he?

 

Today we’ve learned that Deloitte, who are contracted by the government to help run test and trace, are now trying to sell contact tracing services to local councils.

 

So the government’s own contractor, one of the very firms responsible for the failing system in the first place, now sees a business opportunity in selling information and services to local authorities – that they should be receiving anyway – in the middle of a biggest public health crisis for 100 years.

 

Isn’t this an utter scandal?

 

How can this be allowed?

 

Doesn’t it show once again that local Directors of Public health should be in charge of contact tracing?

 

Finally this week GPs warned of ‘significant problems’ with flu vaccine supplies and Boots and Lloyds pharmacies also stopped offering flu jab appointments due to issues with supply – do we have enough flu vaccines available for all who need one?