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Labour calls on government for clarity on public health messaging and impact on economic activity

Coronavirus: Isolate your household. Stay at home

Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, has written to the government over plans to return to normal levels of economic activity.

In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Ms Dodds says she is “deeply concerned that the last 48 hours have presented a confused picture” in relation to whether those with suspected Covid-19 should self-isolate. The shadow chancellor has asked the government to state “unequivocally that those with Covid-19 must self-isolate at home, with the rest of their household.”

The Shadow Chancellor has requested that the government share details of their modelling on the impact to population incomes, business solvency, and levels of UK economic activity if there are delays in the reopening of sectors due to any potential increase in the ‘R’ statistic or ineffective introduction of ‘test, track and protect’.

Noting that the country is facing the deepest recession in 300 years, Ms Dodds emphasises the “additional economic impact of [public health] measures being undermined and the contraction being unnecessarily prolonged.”

Full Text of Letter:

Dear Chancellor,

Until a vaccine or effective treatments are found, any sustained return to more normal levels of economic activity is dependent on an effective ‘test, track and protect’ regime. This includes of course the measures announced at the weekend for a phased return in retail.

The ‘test, track and protect’ regime will fail to prevent an additional surge in Covid-19 cases if people in contact with those infected do not properly isolate themselves and those sharing a household with them.

In addition, measures to enable limited reopenings remain, according to your Government’s plan, contingent on the ‘R’ reducing over time, which again is dependent on those infected with Covid-19 self-isolating, as well as those sharing their household.

I am deeply concerned that the last 48 hours have presented a confused picture around what those with suspected Covid-19 should do, and those sharing households with them. Your Government must swiftly remedy this by stating unequivocally that those with Covid-19 must self-isolate at home, with the rest of their household. However recent developments suggest that clarity around public health messaging may no longer constitute a key government priority.

I would therefore be grateful if you could please indicate to me what modelling Her Majesty’s Treasury has undertaken, if any, of the impact on a) population incomes, b) business solvency and c) levels of UK economic activity of:

  • A delay in the dates intimated by the Prime Minister for the reopening of different sectors, due to a potential increase in the ‘R’ statistic
  • Ineffective introduction of ‘test, track and protect’ involving reduced compliance with the ‘protect’ (isolate) element, leading to continued population transmission of Covid-19 and the risk of additional lockdowns, either nationally, regionally or locally (as highlighted by a number of members of the SAGE advisory group on behavioural science)

Either of these eventualities would be catastrophic for the health of UK citizens, which must be our overriding concern. However, in the midst of the fastest and deepest recession our country has faced for 300 years, caused by necessary measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, any Chancellor must surely be concerned about the additional economic impact of those measures being undermined and the contraction being unnecessarily prolonged.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,
Anneliese Dodds MP
Shadow Chancellor