I completely understand and share constituent's frustrations at the sacrifices we have all had to make over the last 6 months and I absolutely believe it is right the implementation of this legislation is carefully analysed and evaluated. Having gone through an extensive period with low case and death numbers previously, I can certainly empathise with everyone who is frustrated at the extension of this Act by another 6 months, although it must be noted cases are rising quickly once again.
Measures in the Act
I first want to emphasise to you all measures in the Coronavirus Act are temporary and, Health Ministers believe, proportionate to the threat we face. It is important they will only be used when strictly necessary and will only be put in place for as long as required to respond to the situation.
The purpose of the legislation is to ensure sufficient staff and Covid Marshalls are available and deployed where they are most needed, as well as supporting members of the public, containing and slowing the virus and managing the deceased with respect and dignity. I welcome measures in place to review this act on a six-monthly basis to ensure the measures remain appropriate. It is clear the virus will be with us for some time, and it is vital that we are able to take necessary steps to save lives.
As such, when it came to voting on extending this health legislation by another 6 months, I did so with due consideration of the latest scientific evidence, Minister’s assurances and the rate at which the virus is spreading across the country. UK cases have now hit over 17k in one day and there were 128 cases per 100k population in the UK in the 7 days to October 5th, further information can be found at https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/. In the last week, there were an average of 485 hospital admissions per day in the UK. This is the highest since June 8th. In the North West, there are more people in hospital now (1,098) than there were on March 30th (964). In the North West, there are more people on mechanical ventilation now (117) than there were on April 2nd (102). I hope this highlights the extent to which the virus is currently spreading.
I am very pleased the Government has sought to offer Parliament additional scrutiny, offering MPs a welcome vote on changes to regulations wherever it is possible, on England or UK-wide measures before they come into place, it’s right in this challenging and evolving situation. I agree it is vital for actions to be taken as swiftly as possible in the fight against coronavirus. But it is important Parliament has additional opportunities to thoroughly examine new measures before they are put in place wherever this can be achieved.
I know most people have been working extremely hard, making numerous sacrifices to comply with relevant public health advice. This Act simply seeks to ensure isolation measures can be enforced if necessary. This includes public health officers or police officers returning people to places they have been required to stay. For example, if someone has been contacted by NHS Test and Trace to be told to self-isolate for 14 days, and then is found out and about during that time, they would be returned home. Equally, the act empowers police and immigration officers to make sure that individuals attend testing or treatment facilities as required.
For less clear-cut breaches, I would want the police to exercise their discretion and appeal to people's sense of reason and responsibility to society. It is also important measures like this are kept under close review by Parliament and remain temporary. Our Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has also encouraged local people to abide by the new rules to keep safe and has reinforced the national message, Sussex Police will be enforcing these new measures and have the power to do so, but calling them to deal with these issues does take valuable officers away from dealing with other, potentially more serious, criminal activity, including burglary and abuse.
The Government has been clear throughout, should the number of cases further escalate, they would not hesitate to take whatever measures are necessary to stop the spread, protect the NHS, protect the return to work and school, restrict social interactions when it appears they are increasing infections and save lives. While relaxations of restrictions over recent months have been welcome, sadly infection rates are rising. I understand these measures may seem intimidating and I know the overwhelming majority of people are following guidance and obeying self-isolation instructions. However, we must be prepared to enforce these measures, to ensure the small number of people who do not comply are not putting lives at risk by their behaviour.
I am keen for all Mid Sussex constituents to be able to learn, trade, live, socialise and enjoy their lives in our beautiful constituency. I agree with the Chancellor the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP’s sentiment when he recently said:
“Our lives can no longer be put on hold. Since May, we have taken steps to liberate our economy and society. We did these things because life means more than simply existing. We find meaning and hope through our friends and family, through our work, through our community. People were not wrong for wanting that meaning, for striving towards normality, and nor was the government wrong to want this for them. I said in the summer that we must endure and live with the uncertainty of the moment. This means learning our new limits as we go. Because the truth is the responsibility for defeating Coronavirus cannot be held by government alone. It is a collective responsibility, shared by all. Because the cost is paid by all. We have so often spoken about this virus in terms of lives lost. But the price our country is paying is wider than that. The government has done much to mitigate the effects of the awful trade-offs between health, education and employment. And as we think about the next few weeks and months, we need to bear all of those costs in mind.”
This is something I certainly resonate and wholeheartedly agree with and I do hope you found this information useful; I will continue to monitor this issue and scrutinise the steps the Government is taking closely.
I hope this was helpful. More information can be found at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2020/7/contents/enacted