As we approach the halfway point of the Government’s nationwide lockdown, I want to thank constituents and businesses for abiding by the new restrictions.
The Government has lost control of the virus, and my first duty is to keep my constituents safe. That is why I voted for the lockdown. Nobody voted for the regulations with anything but a heavy heart. I did not come into Parliament to restrict people’s freedoms.
This period must be used to undertake the transfer of test and trace to local public health departments, including a full resource transfer. In addition, the Government must ensure that the NHS and social care are fully prepared with adequate PPE, as high as possible uptake of flu vaccinations and regular testing regimes.
I have proposed measures to protect the clinically vulnerable and providing ‘supportive shielding’ so that people don’t experience the devastating isolation that happened last time. We must also make sure we have simple, coherent messaging with local community engagement as well as monitoring and enforcement capacity to support people complying during the lockdown.
Local restrictions have had a devastating effect on people living in care homes and their families. As co-Chair of the APPG on Dementia I have received heart-breaking stories from Oldhamers, unable to visit their loved ones for months on end, and who have seen a marked deterioration in their condition, particularly for those living with dementia.
I secured a Westminster Hall debate on the impact of coronavirus on people living with dementia, their families and carers last week, where I challenged the Minister on these issues. I pressed the Minister to report back to Parliament on her trial of visitor testing which starts on 16th November in 30 care homes, with the intention of rolling out testing for visitors across the country in December. It is essential that family members are able to safely visit their loved ones in care homes, especially as we approach Christmas.
I have also been challenging the Government on how they’ve been awarding Covid-related contracts. Billions of pounds of public money has been awarded to private companies often with no experience in delivering medical supplies. The Government’s repeated refusal to come clean about where this public money has left no option but to compel the Government to come clean through the courts. This is why I partnered with Caroline Lucas MP, Layla Moran MP and the Good Law Project in legal action to force the Government to publish details of private covid and PPE related contracts.
Whilst we recognise that at the beginning of the pandemic we needed to move quickly, this does not justify the Government’s wholesale disregard for transparency including the publication of contracts awarded. The Government has now disclosed that at least £17 billion worth of Covid-19 contracts have been awarded by the Department of Health and Social Care since April, with over £4 billion of these contracts being hidden. The transparency gap is therefore growing.
I am pleased that last week the High Court granted our judicial review to challenge the Government’s persistent failure to publish these contracts. The hearing is scheduled for mid-January 2021 and I’ll keep you informed of our progress.
Do look after yourselves and stay safe.