On Monday the 22nd of February, I closed a general debate on COVID-19 in the House of Commons. I paid homage to the National Health Service and the successful vaccine rollout, both of which are sources of national pride. However, I also reflected on the lives lost during the pandemic, and the need to learn lessons and do things differently going forward.
The successful roll-out of the vaccination, which has contributed to falling numbers of cases and deaths, is a source of optimism and a source of pride. The success of the NHS in the vaccine rollout stands in contrast to track and trace, a failing system which has been propped up by local authorities. This contrast provides yet more evidence that we must invest in and strengthen our public services, not underfund them and sell them off. We must ensure that the next ten years are not like the last ten.
I acknowledged the difficulties and despair that this last year has seen. Across the UK, over 120,000 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. This is a horrendous death toll and a tragedy for so many families. The impact of the pandemic has been felt everywhere and in every community.
I used the debate to hold the Government to account, but also to provide them constructive ideas which the Labour Party believe can strengthen the national response to COVID-19. I urged the Government to fix sick pay and isolation support. This is vital to effective management of the virus, the news that only 3 in 10 people with a positive diagnosis self-isolate should scare us and must be addressed. I asked the Chancellor to bridge the gap in financial support schemes and ensure that those people who have not received any financial support are assisted. I also appealed to the Government to work with the education sector to create a safe and managed plan to get students back to school with mass testing, ventilation, and secure classrooms.
COVID-19 has thrived on the deep inequalities in our society and revealed the extent of inequality in health, housing, and finance. People who live in the poorest communities are twice as likely to die. I closed the debate by urging the Government to break from the past decade of austerity and inequality by demonstrating change in the upcoming budget. I believe that we must not make the same mistakes again. We must ensure that the future is different.