Sir Iain Duncan Smith calls for a more targeted approach to tackling the real covid infection risk as the application of Tier 3 to London will unfairly “hammer down” on the hospitality sector which has worked hard to keep the risk under control.
I fully recognise my right hon. Friend’s serious dilemmas—it is not an enviable position—but the application of tier 3 to London raises some questions. I have had long conversations in my borough with public health and the hospitals, and they maintain that the infection rate is now almost exclusively among secondary schoolchildren, who pass it on to their parents—those two least at-risk groups—so the hospitals are not overcrowded, with spare beds in the intensive care units and a very low level of covid patients in the hospitals.
Tier 3 will hammer down on the one area that does control what happens, which is hospitality. The key here, surely, is that doing that will cause people to shift back to their homes, and it is that area that we would worry about, with off-licences selling alcohol late in the evening. Will my right hon. Friend try to seek some kind of flexibility so that these measures target better the real risk and do not just hammer those who have been doing the right thing?
We are always open to finding new ways to protect the economy as much as possible and bring the virus under control. I share my right hon. Friend’s desire to get it under control and to keep it under control until a vaccine can make us safe, but unfortunately this is no longer just a problem among school-age children in Waltham Forest and north-east London, which it has been until the last week’s data. The case rate among the over-60s in Waltham Forest is now over 250 and we are seeing that rising over the last week. We are also seeing rising admissions to hospital.
I have a huge amount of sympathy for everybody affected by these decisions in Waltham Forest, but it is absolutely essential to get this under control now to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed in the future. We must break the inexorable link from cases now to hospitalisations in the future—and, sadly, deaths—by using the vaccine and by testing. Until we can have the vaccine fully rolled out and people inoculated by having their second dose, and until enough vulnerable people have had that second dose and have therefore become inoculated, unfortunately measures like this are necessary.