Lord Fairfax of Cameron debates involving the Department of Health and Social Care during the 2019-2024 Parliament

Covid-19: Vaccinations

Lord Fairfax of Cameron Excerpts
Wednesday 13th January 2021

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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The short answer is yes, and absolutely. The noble Baroness makes a point that we understand vividly and extremely well. Many smaller GP surgeries simply are not physically capable of being Covid secure, as she rightly points out. We are taking a panoptic view of health records to ensure that the right GP surgeries which are open can offer the service to those who would not normally be reached.

Lord Fairfax of Cameron Portrait Lord Fairfax of Cameron (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I would like to ask my noble friend the Minister two questions, if I may. Like many others, I first congratulate him and the Government on the progress made so far with the vaccination programme. But what plans do they have to further turbo-charge the vaccine deployment programme? I am, of course, thinking of a 24/7 vaccine centre, as many others have referred to already. Reference has also been made to Israel’s much greater progress, so far. But is the Minister aware of the comment of the highly respected Professor Bell of Oxford, who said that we could vaccinate the whole country “in five days” if we had the will, subject, of course, to supplies of the vaccine? Professor Bell went on to say that this vaccine rollout is a “war” and should be treated as such by the Government. Therefore—in my respectful submission—to refer to consumer demand is not necessarily consistent with that status of war. On my second question, the Government have said that they expect all nine high-risk groups to be vaccinated “by the spring”. Can the Minister tell us what exactly the Government mean by the spring—in other words, months and days or dates?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, on turbo-charging the vaccine deployment, the two key focuses are: first, on very large centres, which can have a very large throughput of people, as these will make an enormous difference and bring an industrial energy to the process; and, secondly, to extend the reach into the hard-to-reach communities, whether those are rural or where people are not in the mainstream of British life. Regarding the noble Lord’s point on the “war”, while it might seem obvious to him that everyone will step forward for the vaccine that is not, strictly speaking, right. Some people are going to make careful decisions before stepping forward to have it, so we have to think about making it attractive and reasonable to as many people as possible, particularly those who are vulnerable to the disease. I do not think it is right that we cannot have a consumer mentality to this. We have to treat the public with consideration and thoughtfulness, because they will decide whether they are going to step forward or not.

Covid-19 Update

Lord Fairfax of Cameron Excerpts
Monday 30th November 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, we rely on the principle of consent. We appeal to the good will of the British public. Analysis of Google and transport statistics suggests that, by and large, the British public have abided by the travel restrictions in the tiering structure, but we do keep them under analysis. It is not our intention to have surveillance and a penalty-fine culture, but we will do whatever is necessary to ensure the effective application of the tiering framework.

Lord Fairfax of Cameron Portrait Lord Fairfax of Cameron (Con) [V]
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My Lords, while my noble friend the Minister is of course only responsible for health matters, would he not agree that, with the economic emergency—as the Chancellor had said—just starting, unemployment set to double by next year, and thousands of businesses going to the wall every week, to say nothing of the non-Covid health consequences of its measures, the Government would not be facing possible defeat in the other place tomorrow if they had taken a more balanced and transparent approach, particularly recently, to the Covid crisis?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, although I am only a humble Health Minister, I do believe that the frameworks we are recommending are in the best interests of the economy. If the NHS cannot cope, if trust breaks down in society, if people stay at home and will not shop or go to hospitality, and if people are laid off then the economy suffers. If the pandemic and the presence of Covid, as a driver of behaviour in our society, rolls over for month after month, then we will be the long-term sufferers of economic decline. That is the reason why we believe that the tiering and community testing is essential, and that is why we support these measures.