Due to the time I had to speak today being short, I wanted to share with you the full text of what I had prepared to say, you can read it below.
Madam Deputy Speaker
I want to set out my concerns about these Regulations. Primarily, because I feel they will inflict more economic pain on my constituency and hardship on my constituents, the unintended health consequences of the first lockdown and the government’s lack of a credible plan to deal with it; And then the government’s failure of testing not least because it decided to hand it to the private sector.
“We will have a test, track, and trace operation that will be world beating. And, yes, it will be in place by June 1st. There will be 25,000 trackers, they will be able to cope with 10,000 new cases a day.’ PMQS 20/5/20 to My Rt Hon and Learned friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras
The Government introduced four changes to local restrictions from the 12th September before the Tiered restrictions system were passed in this House on 13th October 2020, let’s not forget they were due to be reviewed on 11th November.
The Government did not allow enough time to assess if the they were working. It appears they might have been because there has been notable improvement in the rate of infection in Merseyside and in Halton.
I have spoken to my local hospitals on a regular basis and yes, they are under a great deal of pressure, and the doctors, nurses and all staff are doing a wonderful job. But they are coping so far.
One told me the situation is currently safe and under control but tight. I am just as concerned as any other member that we do all we can to support our hospitals
The government sets out in Part 1 section 4 of these regulations the meaning of vulnerable person:
“Any person aged 70 or older and any person aged under 70 who has an underlying health condition…..”, and goes on to list them.
So, the government believes rightly that it’s important enough to list the meaning of a vulnerable person but does not set out how it will specifically protect this group of people.
This is quite shocking given that this group of people make up a significant proportion of patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19. If the vulnerable were better protected, it would save more lives and ease some pressure from hospitals.
I have constituents in the extremely clinically vulnerable group that Ministers are advising not to go to work and to claim SSP.
They tell me they simply cannot afford to live on £95.85 per week and are having to choose between putting their health at risk from Covid-19 or their health at risk from not being able to afford the things they need. They are going to work frightened.
The government should be focusing on providing everything the clinically vulnerable groups need to make staying at home as comfortable as possible.
Providing their full wages, access to the food they like, access to technology to stay in touch with their loved ones and if they do not have families, arrange for volunteers to check on them.
If the government are confident that a vaccine will soon be available – and I hear talk of next month – and confident they can fix Test & Trace. Then shield our vulnerable people properly, give them the best chance of getting through this pandemic, look after them and at the same time this would help look after people waiting for NHS treatments for things like cancer, to better protect the NHS.
Instead of sensibly helping to shield our most vulnerable, why are the government closing businesses that there is no evidence to support that they are responsible for the spread of Covid.
There is no reliable evidence that gyms, golf and tennis for example, are responsible for the spread of Covid.
In coming to its decision, the government does not appear to have considered that many organisations and businesses have invested large amounts of money to become Covid safer, which was not the case before the first lockdown.
And, where is the evidence that Churches are a significant risk, constituents tell me going to mass helps them cope better?
When I see today in the FT times that ONS figures show as a result of the pandemic there was a significant increase in the number of people who earned below the minimum wage. Many work in the hospitality and service industry and are in low paid or in part-time work.
Since April, I have on three occasions contacted the Health Secretary to put forward Halton as an ideal place for mass testing, each time my requests have been ignored.
Now that the Secretary of State has become a convert to mass testing and Liverpool has been chosen as the first; my constituents are asking that if we are part of the City Region for Tier three lockdown why are we now not treated the same over mass testing? I hope the Government is not going to focus mass testing on Cities only and miss out towns such as Runcorn and Widnes?
Also, I wanted to raise with Ministers that the Heath Science and Technical Park has 20,000sq feet of specialist Laboratory space that could be used to ease pressure on the exiting testing regime. Critical Covid-19 research conducted is already playing a role in the fight against the Covid pandemic.
I now want to turn to the serious situation regarding unintended health consequences.
From the answer to my PQ 96773 on 21st October its clear there are hundreds of people in Halton waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment – there is a health disaster waiting to happen.
The treatable may become the untreatable
By comparison between August last year, and August this year. It showed that in 2019, 91.7% of my constituents were seen within the 18-week target, compared to the 58.4% this year.
Whilst looking at the data for Halton, I was appalled to see the impact on gynaecology patients being seen within 18 weeks. It fell from 91.6% in August 2019 to just 57.2% in August 2020. The women of my constituency deserve better.
Now while there would have been some catch up since August – the backlog will remain high, and we have heard of no credible strategy from Ministers on what they will do to resolve the backlog.
The fact remains that some people who have not presented early enough or been referred quickly, and treatment delayed, will have their lives shortened. Many, who may not have life-threatening conditions will have to bear pain and discomfort for much longer and their outcomes may be worse.
This suffering is real, and I quote from two constituents out of many who have contacted me;
From a Mother.
“My daughter is 6 and has had a perforated ear drum since January. After being seen by audiology a few weeks ago they discovered she now has moderate hearing loss in that ear and were writing to ENT to see her urgently as she’s in alot of pain… Still waiting for them to bring her appointment forward.”
And from another Lady.
“I have bladder cancer and kidney infections constantly, haven’t seen anyone since March getting worried now, had an MRI in August cancer hasn’t got any worse but it will eventually, now am being told not to shield go to work as am a key worker, which I will do even though I’m diabetic and have cancer yet healthy people can stay working from home”
It may be the case that this second lockdown could have an even more detrimental impact on mental health.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I cannot support these regulations as they stand.
Derek Twigg MP