Theresa Villiers – 2020 Speech on Covid-19

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa Villiers, the Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, in the House of Commons on 11 May 2020.

When an inquiry takes place into the covid pandemic, I fear that its most painful conclusions will relate to what has happened in care homes. I urge the Government to continue to place the highest priority on stopping the spread of the virus in care homes. That is crucial, both to protect the frail, elderly people who are most at risk and to prevent care homes from acting as infection hotspots, which could revive the virus in the wider population. There is, I am afraid, worrying evidence from Wuhan and Italy that it was in care homes and other healthcare settings that the epidemic was first amplified. It is disturbing to think that, in the early stages of the crisis here, understandable decisions to discharge patients from hospital to make way for the expected surge in covid patients may have had the unintended consequence of sending people in hospital who had asymptomatic covid back to their care home to spread the infection to others.

If we are to get on top of this crisis, we must ensure that no patient is discharged from hospital into a care home unless they have been tested and do not have covid. No one should go into any care home if they are covid-positive. I raised that with Ministers some weeks ago after I was sent a Sky News report in which a care home manager from Devon described admitting covid-positive patients as

“importing death into care homes.”

Yet only a few days ago, I saw a letter from Sutton Council indicating that there are still attempts to place people with covid in care homes. That has to stop.

Every person should be tested before they are admitted to a care home whether they come from the community or from a hospital, and whether they have symptoms or not. Care home staff must also be regularly and routinely tested. If we maintain rigorous control of the virus in hospital and care settings, including through routine, regular testing of staff, patients and residents, day in, day out, that should enable us not only to save lives but to lift lockdown measures more quickly for the rest of us.

It is urgent that we do lift those measures. The Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted a contraction in our economy bigger than anything for 300 years. The Government’s support package for businesses, jobs and livelihoods is a more far-reaching intervention in our economy than anything implemented outside wartime. It has staved off economic catastrophe, and I thank the Government for the support they have given to so many ​jobs and businesses in Chipping Barnet. We must maintain that support as long as we can, but it is sustainable only for a limited period.

Today’s announcements on the economy take us in the right direction, but we need to move more quickly if we are to wake the economy from the medically induced coma it has been placed in. The only long-term solution is to release the economy from lockdown and to get Britain back to work as soon as it is safe to do so. I urge the Government to do that.