Alongside a circuit break, the Liberal Democrats demand the Government takes the following steps in order to get a grip on this crisis
- Fix Test, Trace and Isolate
This must be the Government’s top priority. Every possible resource should be thrown at creating a robust, locally-led Test and Trace system which ensures everyone with symptoms can get a test and receive their results within 24-hours. Tracing should be led by local authorities and people should be given support and incentives to isolate, not the threat of a £10,000 fine. Frontline NHS staff should have access to regular testing.
- Extend furlough & self-employed support to save jobs
It is disgraceful that the Chancellor has written off whole sectors of our economy. It is his job to ensure nobody is left behind. While borrowing costs next to nothing, the Chancellor is choosing to leave workers in the arts, in hospitality and other sectors without a salary. This is a heartless political choice. He must expand furlough support urgently until June 2021.
- Protect people living and working in care
Vulnerable people living in care were appallingly let down in the first weeks of this crisis. Government must guarantee that as hospital admissions rise, all discharges from hospitals into care homes will take place only following a negative Covid test. Staff and residents must be able to access regular testing, with results within 24 hours, and the same must apply to people being supported to live independently, as well as residents of care homes.
Residents in care homes have now had six months without being able to see their loved ones. To reduce isolation and loneliness, care home residents should be able to nominate at least one loved one who would be given regular testing, in order that they could visit them.
- Support children and young people
Young people will still face huge disruption to their education this year, whether because of further lockdowns, or because they have to self-isolate. Government must do everything it can to support schools to stay open in a covid-secure way, whilst also ensuring they have the resources and skills to provide online learning. This means getting laptops and internet access to pupils from low income households. They must also extend free school meals and food vouchers to ensure every child in poverty can access them - even when schools are closed. They must provide certainty about how exams will run next year, in all likely scenarios. They must reach a fair deal for first-year university students who are being charged for accommodation they do not want to use, and ensure that everyone who wants to get home to their families between now and Christmas, is able to do so.
- Establish a public inquiry into the handling of the crisis
Public trust in the Government's handling of this crisis is woefully low. More and more evidence is emerging that the Government has ignored scientific advice and is still failing to do what is needed. We need an independent, public inquiry, into how this has gone so badly wrong, starting as soon as possible.
Rob Nolan, Lib Dem portfolio holder for Environment and Public Protection said:
“People across the country have endured terrible hardships over the past six months. They’ve lost loved ones, lost livelihoods and been cut off from friends and family.
“We have made huge sacrifices and played by the Government’s rules - we deserve to have confidence that these rules will work.”
“Instead, our efforts are being squandered by the incompetence of Boris Johnson. His Test and Trace system is not fit for purpose, and scientific advice is being ignored.”
Liberal Democrat Cabinet Member for Adults, Rob Rotchell said:
“It is now clear the Government ignored calls from experts for a ‘circuit break' short national lockdown. We urge them to reconsider. No one wants to see businesses close again but if this gives time to fix the Test, Trace and Isolate system, it could be a vital step to getting the virus back under control and keeping it under control.”