Philippa Whitford – 2020 Speech on the Wuhan Coronavirus

Below is the text of the speech made by Philippa Whitford, the SNP MP for Central Ayrshire, in the House of Commons on 11 February 2020.

I, too, welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, and we support the use of powers to maintain isolation, as they are critical for the health and safety of other people in the country. I would, however, also support that they must be transparent and proportionate. I also welcome that the four chief medical officers across the UK are working together on this issue.

The Government are advising symptomatic returnees from the high-risk countries, but should that not be all people returning from high-risk countries? We simply do not know what the prodromal part of the incubation period is, nor how infectious someone actually is before they have any symptoms at all. I have to say that I was surprised to see the bus drivers, who were driving those on their way to quarantine, sitting in the front seat in shirt sleeves besides someone in full hazmat gear. That seemed to me to send out a rather strange message.

It is also advised that only those from Hubei province should self-isolate even if asymptomatic, but we see from the cases in France that this is spreading very quickly and we already have 40,000 cases across 28 countries. Therefore, if anyone is flying and going through airports, there is the risk of spread, of simply being on an aeroplane with someone coming from China.

I welcome the funding for vaccine research and the expansion to 12 test centres across the four nations, but what publicity campaign is planned to educate the public upfront not to go to their GP and not to go to accident and emergency, where they will actually spread it to someone else? I understand that the information is there on the Scottish NHS inform system or 111, but if someone is not looking maybe we need to be proactive about the message.

Finally, the UK is no longer part of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. While we are able to take part in the early warning and reporting system during transition, we are no longer part of the decision making or central procurement of vaccines. How much of that system is the UK still able to be part of at the moment during transition and in the long term? Does that perhaps raise up the agenda some of the areas of co-operation that need to be sought with European Union agencies?