Sir David Amess was on the call list to speak in the debate on Public Health on Tuesday 13 October. However, unfortunately there was not enough time for Sir David to speak. Below is the speech Sir David intended to give as, amongst other things, he calls for more support for the exhibitions and events industry, residents in care homes and those who are going through maternity and giving birth.
“This pandemic we are currently experiencing is unlike any situation we have ever found ourselves in. Whilst I appreciate that it is new for the Government and they have introduced lots of financial support measures for certain individuals and communities, many people are still being forgotten.
I am sure my colleagues will also have received countless emails from concerned constituents regarding Government guidelines and advice about face coverings and the 10pm curfew. The guidance and rules surrounding face coverings are confusing to many and need to be clearer. I have had constituents email me asking why they are seeing people in shops and pubs not wearing masks. Do staff or security guards have the power to enforce customers to wear masks and deny entry if they refuse? Or is it just up to the police to enforce the wearing of masks? Police cannot be present at every pub and shop all the time. We need to efficiently enforce the rules we are encouraging our constituents to follow.
The 10pm curfew has posed many problems for businesses and people leaving pubs and restaurants. With all hospitality businesses closing at 10pm, it produces a rush of people filtering onto the streets and public transport at the same time which increases the risk of transmission. It is also damaging to the economy as much of the industry thrives on business after 10pm, especially pubs and bars, and restaurants are unable to have the same number of sittings as they previously did. NHS data has shown that ‘Eating out/exercise/shopping/events’ accounted for just 2.4% of Coronavirus transmissions whilst ‘Household’ exposure accounted for 76.9%. Therefore, our hospitality industry needs to be protected and the harsh restrictions placed on it reconsidered.
Those more vulnerable members in our society have tended to suffer the most during this pandemic. Unfortunately, I have had constituents email me about deaths of loved ones in care homes. Some care home residents have been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment which have exposed them to the virus and then, crucially, blocked them from receiving life-saving medical attention. We must not deprive the most vulnerable of their health just because they are in care homes. Additionally, care home visits are important and should continue despite the new restrictions introduced to stem the spread of Coronavirus.
As the Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Maternity, I am asking for the Government to ensure that with the increasing restrictions on our freedom those going through a pregnancy, giving birth and those who need post-birth medical attention don’t do it alone. No one should go through maternity without their partner or family member or friend by their side, and the necessary Coronavirus safety precautions should be put in place to ensure this.
Seeing local areas go into regional lockdowns, especially in the north of England, means it is increasingly important to plan for regional lockdowns all across England. If a ‘no household visit’ restriction was to be implemented in Southend, then many of my constituents who have clients visit their homes, for example beauty therapists, would not be able to work. Can the Minister confirm that there will be specific support measures for cases like these if Southend was to enter a regional lockdown?
The exhibition and events sector is just one industry which has been left to fend for itself. It is an industry that contributes £70bn to the UK economy and employs 600,000 people. The events industry was required to close its doors in March this year and although the sector was granted a return date of 1st October, this has not been the case.
The Government should assist the exhibition and events sector by the inclusion and extension of business rate reliefs until 2022 and early clarity on when businesses can reopen.
The German Government has agreed a 50 billion Euro emergency relief programme to reduce the economic consequences of Coronavirus for freelancers and small businesses. Likewise, the industry in France is being supported and encouraged as safe places for businesses to meet. Events are happening elsewhere in Europe and are receiving Governmental support, so why can’t the same be done in the UK?
With regards to flu jabs, I would like to take this opportunity to praise Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and in particular Krishna Ramkhelawon, the Director of Public Health, for their work in acquiring flu vaccines for Southend GPs and Pharmacies for all age groups that should be received this week.
I have recently visited the walk-through test centre on Short Street and the drive through centre being put up in Nazareth House this weekend. These two testing centres, and the one at the airport in my constituency, need support to cope with a possible increase in demand throughout the winter period.
The recently launched NHS COVID-19 app that uses contact tracing to track the virus is not reaching everybody. What is the Department for Health and Social Care going to do to ensure that everybody who has tested positive for Coronavirus or has come into contact with the virus is alerted immediately? The quicker people are alerted of their potential exposure to Coronavirus, the quicker they can self-isolate and reduce the virus’ spread.
With the new announcements made yesterday regarding local restrictions and the tier system, who has the final responsibility to move regions between tiers? Is it the local councils to decide, or is it imposed upon them?”