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Covid-19: Overseas Territories

Volume 678: debated on Tuesday 30 June 2020

What steps his Department is taking to help tackle the covid-19 pandemic in the overseas territories. (904025)

We will always stand by the overseas territories. Government Departments, led by DFID and the FCO, are supporting them to respond to the pandemic. Baroness Sugg, the Minister for the Overseas Territories, and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton), are in regular contact with political leaders and governors to assess the situation and identify how the UK Government can best support them. So far, we have procured and delivered medical supplies to all inhabited overseas territories except Pitcairn, which has had no cases of covid-19. That includes delivering testing systems to six territories, enabling them to test for coronavirus for the first time, and boosting testing capabilities in three others.

I very much welcome my hon. Friend’s answer. I wonder whether he will elaborate on the steps being taken to ensure that those medical supplies and equipment are reaching our overseas territories so that they can respond to covid-19 rapidly.

I can confirm that we are working with the overseas territories to support their healthcare systems. In addition to the medical supplies and testing equipment that I mentioned, specialist health professionals from Public Health England provide ongoing advice and support to chief medical officers in each territory, and we have supported a number of them to recruit additional medical personnel.

South Derbyshire residents care about our deep relationship with our overseas territories, so will my hon. Friend update the House on what security assistance has been provided to the overseas territories to ensure that the UK Government are safe- guarding the wellbeing of their people?

It is great to answer a question from my predecessor, who did such a fantastic job as Minister for Asia. It is great to see her live this morning, albeit digitally. The UK Government take their responsibility to protect the safety and security of the people of the overseas territories very seriously. The Ministry of Defence and the Home Office have provided in-territory support to the Turks and Caicos Islands through a security assistance team of military personnel and police liaison officers. Twenty-nine additional military personnel supported Turks and Caicos to counter illegal migration from Haiti, which risks undermining the covid-19 response. Another team is in the Cayman Islands providing reassurance, security and logistics planning for covid-19, and we must also be conscious of the potential for hurricane responses in those areas.