Tuesday 16 June 2020
Health and Social Care
Coronavirus Impact: BAME Community
Today, Public Health England has published the result of ITS work to engage with individuals and organisations within the BAME community, to hear their views, concerns and ideas about the impact of covid-19 on their communities. As the House will know, my hon. Friend the Equalities Minister will be leading on the next steps, working with PHE and others. Copies will be deposited in the Libraries of both houses and are available on PHE’s website, https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england
Coronavirus: Easing of Restrictions
On 26 March 2020, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force, imposing restrictions on people’s movements and gatherings, and requiring the closure of certain retail and public premises, in the interest of public health in light of the coronavirus pandemic. On 13 May and 1 June, we introduced some cautious easements of some of the measures in the regulations, in order to begin reopening the economy and returning to normal life, while continuing to protect the NHS and save lives.
Taking into account scientific advice and the Government’s assessment against the five conditions required for change, I have now made some further amendments to the regulations to ease the restrictions as has been announced by the Government in recent weeks.
The changes which have come into effect include allowing for adults who live without another adult in their household, including single parents with dependent children under the age of 18, to form a “support bubble” with another household, and allowing individual prayer in places of worship.
The changes also updated the arrangements for businesses. Non-essential retail can open, as can some additional outdoor attractions, including drive-in cinemas and zoos. Libraries will be able to operate an order and collect service. The amendments also expressly provide for people to make visits such as end of life visits where appropriate.
Publicly available Government guidance on gov.uk is being updated to ensure it fully corresponds with the amended regulations. These remain strict measures, but they are measures that we must take in order to protect our NHS and to save lives.
Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Appointment)
The hon. Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) has been appointed as a full member of the United Kingdom Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in place of the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy). The right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) has been appointed as a substitute member.
Women and Equalities
Covid-19: Disparities in Risk and Outcome
On 9 June 2020, the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler) made a point of order raising concerns that I misled the House about the role Professor Kevin Fenton had in the Public Health England (PHE) review of disparities in the risk and outcomes of covid-19, and also whether third-party submissions were part of its final report. As I was unable to attend to respond in person, I am writing now to do so.
On 4 June, I stated in the House that Professor Fenton was leading PHE’s review. A press release from PHE on the 4 May clearly stated, “Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health Director for London will lead the review” of how different factors can impact on people’s health outcomes from covid-19. In the same press release, Professor Fenton said “We are committed to hearing voices from a variety of perspectives on the impact of covid-19 on people of different ethnicities”. Duncan Selbie, the chief executive of PHE, has since written to the hon. Member and me to clarify that the review Professor Fenton led refers to a parallel piece of work to engage with individuals and organisations within the BAME community.
I understand the purpose of this was to gain insights into what communities themselves felt the impacts of covid-19 were. This work was separate to the epidemiological review of the data, which the chief medical officer commissioned. However, they are all part of the work PHE has been doing to investigate this issue. Today, a document summarising this engagement and its findings was formally submitted to me and due to be published by PHE.
In regard to the hon. Member’s suggestion that I misled the House about whether third-party submissions were part of PHE’s report, my statement as I made it is accurate. Third-party submissions are part of Professor Fenton’s extensive stakeholder engagement work as he made clear on 4 May, which will contribute to and inform the next stage of work that I am taking forward.