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Covid-19: Economic Effect

Volume 684: debated on Tuesday 17 November 2020

What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on reducing the economic effect of the covid-19 outbreak. (908870)

I have regular discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others. The best strategy for both health and the economy is to suppress the virus, supporting the NHS and the economy, until a vaccine can make us safe.

The economic effect of the lockdown on the hospitality sector in particular is severe. In large constituencies such as Thirsk and Malton, the infection rate can vary significantly across different districts. When my right hon. Friend moves us back to a tiered system on 3 December, will he look at allocating tiers by district rather than by county to keep the economy as open as possible?

Throughout the process of the tiered system, we have always looked at a level of granular detail, whether at district council level or, indeed, ward level in some cases, to make sure that we have the appropriate measures in the appropriate places. While it is too early to say exactly how we will proceed from 3 December, that is a commitment that I can make to my hon. Friend.

As I have highlighted previously, covid is spread not just by droplets but by airborne particles, so good ventilation is key to reducing the risk of spread indoors, such as in hospitality. On 20 October, the Secretary of State agreed to speak to the Chancellor about removing VAT from ventilation and air-purification systems to make them more affordable. Can the Secretary of State tell us what discussions he has had with the Chancellor and what the outcome was?

There has been work on promoting ventilation in government. The hon. Lady is absolutely right that ventilation is important and that the scientific evidence on the aerosol transmission of coronavirus has strengthened over recent months.

If that is the case, can the Secretary of State clarify whether we will hear an announcement from the Chancellor in the near future on supporting the installation of such systems? Even with the good news about potential vaccines, it will be a long time before most of the population are vaccinated, so what is the Secretary of State’s strategy to control covid over the coming year?

Our strategy is to suppress the virus and support the NHS and the economy until a vaccine can make us safe. Increased ventilation can help to reduce transmission, so it is an important consideration, among many others, for how we tackle this disease.