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Petition

Volume 687: debated on Wednesday 13 January 2021

I call Sarah Owen, who is participating virtually—[Interruption.] I do apologise. Sarah, welcome. I am glad you can do it in person, which is a lot easier—tonight.

Safety of pregnant women during the coronavirus outbreak

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I am presenting this petition, which is in memory of Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong. Mary’s husband, Ernest Boateng, started this petition after his wife tragically died, at the age of 28, while pregnant and working as a nurse in Luton last year. The petition, which has been signed by over 100,000 people, calls on the Government to protect pregnant women by ensuring that they can either work from home or that they must be suspended from work on full pay during this pandemic.

The announcement of a vaccine, which is to be rolled out imminently, is good news for many people who are vulnerable, but pregnant women will not be given the vaccine. That means they will not be protected when other vulnerable people will be. The Government must consider the specific needs of pregnant women to ensure that they are safe throughout this crisis. The guidance for pregnant women has been confusing throughout this pandemic. As the petition notes, the current guidance

“continues to list pregnant women as vulnerable and says that if they cannot work from home then they should adhere to strict social distancing”,

but we know that is not happening. The petition states that

“research by Pregnant Then Screwed in October found that 57% of pregnant women who are working outside of the home do not feel safe, and only half of pregnant women…have had a risk assessment from their employer”.

It notes that

“the groups at increased risk of severe COVID-19 were recognised including the increased risk for mothers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic heritage”.

Black pregnant women were eight times more likely to be hospitalised than white pregnant women, according to research by Oxford University. We also know that maternal covid-19 is associated with an approximately three times greater risk of pre-term birth. We ask that no other family has to experience what Ernest has. We demand that all pregnant women are protected by ensuring they can either work from home or are suspended from work on full pay during this crisis.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The petition of Ernest Boateng,

Declares that the wife of Ernest Boateng, Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, a 28 year-old pregnant nurse, tragically died in April 2020, after becoming infected with COVID-19; notes that a corresponding petition online has been signed by over 100,000 people; further declares that, since Mary’s death, very little has been done to protect pregnant women from this life-threatening virus, despite studies showing that for those in the later stages of pregnancy, they are more likely to become severely unwell; further that the announcement of a vaccine which is to be rolled out imminently is good news for many people who are vulnerable, but pregnant women will not be given the vaccine; notes that the current guidance continues to list pregnant women as vulnerable and says that if they cannot work from home then they should adhere to strict social distancing; further notes that research by Pregnant Then Screwed in October found that 57% of pregnant women who are working outside of the home do not feel safe, and only half of pregnant women (53%) have had a risk assessment from their employer; further declares that, even then, many employers are ignoring their own risk assessment; further notes that only 1% of pregnant women who cannot work from home have been suspended from work on safety grounds; further that the groups at increased risk of severe COVID-19 were recognised including the increased risk for mothers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic heritage; and further declares that Mary should not have been working based on the facts and findings above as she was 35 weeks pregnant when she tested positive for COIVD-19.

The petitioner therefore requests that the House of Commons urges the Government to protect pregnant women during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring they can either work from home or that they have the right to full paid leave.

And the petitioner remains, etc.]

[P002643]

Thank you for presenting your petition, Sarah. While you were doing that, the Dispatch Box was sanitised, so we can now move to the next item.