Covid-19 Update Debate

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Department: Leader of the House
Tuesday 3rd November 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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As I have said, we have put in place a comprehensive economic package but the noble Baroness is right that some people have not benefited from certain schemes. The Treasury and the Chancellor and his team always keep this under review and we will continue to look so that we can provide as much support as we can to people at this difficult time.

Lord Liddle Portrait Lord Liddle (Lab)
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My Lords, do the Government recognise that it is crucial what they do with the breathing space that this lockdown is providing? In that context, did they listen—as I hope they did—to what our former Prime Minister suggested on the “Today” programme yesterday? He said that we should roll out vaccines as soon as we know they are safe, before we know how effective they are; push out experimental therapeutics as long as they are safe; get a grip on the data confusion that exists; and appoint a Secretary of State for Testing to sort out track and trace, just as Churchill appointed Max Beaverbrook in the Second World War to handle aircraft production.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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We have secured early access to 350 million vaccine doses through agreements with six separate vaccine developers, and are investing more than £140 million to make sure that we are ready to manufacture a successful vaccine. We are planning for rollout, making sure that we have adequate transport, PPE and logistical expertise. I assure the noble Lord that, at the forefront of what we are doing, we are working towards making sure that we can take advantage of vaccines when they reach the stage when they can be used.

As we have said, we want track and trace to improve and need faster testing turnaround times. They are improving but I accept that we need to do more. As I have said, the testing pilot in Liverpool is another way in which we hope we will be able to use the time over the next month. By testing a large proportion of a single town or city, more positive cases can be identified and people can be told to self-isolate immediately. The residents and workers of Liverpool will be tested using a combination of existing swab tests and the new lateral flow tests that can turn around results rapidly, within an hour, without needing to be processed in a lab. With all these things together, we will make use of this time to see how much we can roll out so we can really bear down on this in December.