Debates between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 7th Jan 2021

Covid-19 Update

Debate between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Thursday 7th January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for his questions. He is absolutely right. We entirely agree that schools and colleges are the best place for children and young people to be, not just for education but for their health and well-being, which is why we tried so hard to keep them open. Unfortunately, as my noble friend said, we just could not do it. It was not that schools themselves were unsafe for either children or pupils; it is that, with the new variant, we need to use every lever at our disposal to reduce community transmission and contact. It was for that reason that schools were closed; it was not because teachers have not done fantastic work. My brother and sister-in-law, who are both teachers, spent Christmas trying to make their schools Covid secure, but we still had to close them. We will certainly keep this position under review; we will certainly try to bring back schools as soon as we can. Of course, regular testing will be at the centre of our plans. All that hard work will not be in vain; it will just be used slightly further away than we may have hoped.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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As the Leader of the House knows, it is not yet clear whether a person who has been vaccinated is still able to transmit the virus; it is quite possible in theory for them to have no symptoms themselves and yet to pass it on. I understand that a group of scientists is working on this issue. Is the Leader of the House able to indicate when those scientists might be able to report? Clearly, this is vital information which we need to have sooner rather than later.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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I can assure the noble and right reverend Lord that PHE will be employing existing surveillance systems and enhanced follow-up of cases to monitor how effective the vaccine is in protecting against a range of outcomes, including infections, symptomatic disease, hospitalisations, mortality and onward transmission. I can assure him that that work is in progress, but I cannot give him a timescale. He will understand that we will need time to gather sufficient data to get a clear picture, but he is right that it will be critical.