Below is the text of the speech made by Mike Hill, the Labour MP for Hartlepool, in the House of Commons on 11 May 2020.
Each death brings unimaginable pain to families, and my heart sinks when I learn of the passing of constituents such as the wonderful Dorothy Clark MBE, from Greatham—my thoughts are with all the families. On the covid-19 wards and the intensive care units operated by the North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, however, miracles are happening every day; thanks to the tireless efforts of our frontline NHS workers, lives are being saved and families are being reunited with their loved ones. I pay tribute to all our key workers, who keep us all going—they are all heroes. Those working in our hospitals, ambulances and care settings, putting themselves in direct risk to care for others, rightly deserve our highest praise. I am thinking of people such as my good friend Tony Traynor, a paramedic, who was admitted to hospital with covid-19 and is now, thankfully, at home recovering.
At the beginning of lockdown, and for weeks after, the shocking lack of PPE, the movement of non-tested patients out of hospitals into care homes and the appalling lack of tests themselves made the situation even worse. As of last Saturday, 154 frontline and social care workers had, sadly, died from this terrible virus. As we know from the Turkish PPE consignment fiasco and the Government’s persistent failure to achieve their daily target of 100,000 tests, we are still not getting it right and we continue to fall short of the mark. Our country has the second highest death rate in the world and, while we are past the peak in most places, the number of deaths in care homes is rising. That is not a record or situation we can or should be proud of. In addition, we are not past our peak in Hartlepool; we are behind the national trend, and our death and infection rates are still rising. To date, we thankfully remain bottom of the table in the north-east, but our rates are accelerating upwards. My concern is that any relaxation of the lockdown will have an adverse impact on my constituents and undermine their efforts to suppress the virus and keep rates down.
As with every MP, my mailbox has been full of covid queries since day one of the lockdown, and people remain worried. The Prime Minister’s statement yesterday has added to the confusion, particularly about returning to work. Thankfully, the return to work order has been delayed until Wednesday, rather than being implemented as of today, but the same problems apply in respect of people returning to work: how are they going to get there if public transport is to be limited? Will their workplaces be safe? Will the necessary measures be put in place? What childcare issues will arise because schools and nurseries remain closed? What about the issue of social distancing in the workplace? We all want to see an end to the lockdown, to return to work safely and to get back to normal, but not at any cost, and certainly not at the risk of the virus spreading further. For my constituents, the Prime Minister’s statement has raised more questions than it has answered. He is acting too early in his encouragement, and he is acting in the interests of the economy, rather than of public health.