The Act helps us in five important ways:
1. Helping us to boost the health and social care workforce and protect the NHS, through allowing the emergency registration of health and social care professionals.
2. Protecting the public servants who want to keep the UK running safely and securely, for example allowing Courts to keep running in a Covid-secure way through virtual hearings, and allowing Councils to hold their meetings virtually.
3. It contains measures to suppress the spread of the virus, for example by restricting events and public gatherings.
4. Allowing us to treat the deceased with the utmost dignity. The Bill’s measures have helped to eased pressure on coroners, reduce distress to the bereaved, and allowed funerals to take place without delay, and we propose to keep them.
5. It contains measures to protect and support people through this crisis; it provided for the furlough scheme, a temporary increase to working tax credits, and making statutory sick pay payable from day one. It also includes measures to protect both business and residential tenants, by delaying when landlords can progress evictions.
It is right that the Government has the ability to act decisively and quickly as this virus changes. The Prime Minister promised that restrictions would ease as the virus caseload reduced. This happened, and much of our society and economy was able to restart. However, the Prime Minister was also clear that everything is to be kept under review. As our cases have unfortunately increased, our approach has had to alter accordingly. Although the cases here in Dorset have remained low, they have been rising, and across the country we have seen a rise in hospitalisations and sadly fatalities.
The new restrictions that are in place are significantly less draconian than those in place at the start of the pandemic. I do not want to see a return to stricter lockdown. In order to ensure that this does not happen, everyone will need to play their part.
During the recent debate on the Coronavirus Act, the Secretary of State for Health set out how Parliament will be able to scrutinise the Governments plans. It is right that Parliament and MPs are properly involved in the management of this pandemic and this is a sensible approach. As the Secretary of State has said, it is vital that we strike the right balance between acting at pace and proper scrutiny.
These decisions have not been taken lightly and I do not want to see restrictions in place for a second longer than is necessary.