On Thursday in the House of Lords John Sentamu who was previously the Archbishop of York made a very important comment in his statement. I have had the privilege to have met him several times in the past including when he preached to Tony Blair at the beginning of the Labour Conference about 15 years ago in Brighton. So he is very capable of raising calls to the Government as he was on Thursday. His statement included the following few words “The programme that the Government embarked on in testing and tracking was world class. When we are still in the middle of this very cold weather, why withdraw free testing in April?” I totally agree with him and we need the Government to reverse their appalling decision to withdraw free testing from the end of March. We need to call for the Government to change! Anyway here is where the talk comes from which was part of a debate under the heading of Amendment to the Motion and here is the full speech from John Sentamu.
My Lords, as I said in this House on Monday, I had to stay at home for seven days because I had a very bad chest cough, a bad cold and a lot of catarrh. I tested myself and the test was negative. Those bad symptoms continued for nearly six days and I tested myself every other day. It was very clear that I had a sudden form of flu, but its effects on me were quite strong. I was encouraged because I was able to test myself and the lateral flow tests revealed that I did not have Covid but had an awful cold and flu.
The programme that the Government embarked on in testing and tracking was world class. When we are still in the middle of this very cold weather, why withdraw free testing in April? It is the only assurance we have. I hope the Government will think again about that possibility, although the regulations have gone. To take responsibility for yourself, you need to know whether you have Covid, otherwise you will go out and infect other people, which you should not do.
The messaging still needs to go out. I was quite shocked when “Look North” said that people in our area who are testing positive and sometimes ending up in hospital had stopped washing their hands. That is a shock. It may be said that we have all grown up and know how to wash our hands regularly, but I am afraid that in some places that has gone, so the messaging should still be going out that for the protection of other people we must take responsibility and wear a face covering, not because it is regulated but to be considerate towards others. Sometimes you should keep your distance when you hear people coughing. You are keeping your distance to try to protect people.
When these regulations have all gone and such things are no longer mandatory, will the Government please continue to inform people that there are some places where you still need to keep your distance, some places where you must continue to wash your hands and some places where wearing a face covering is the responsible thing to do? Although it is not going to be policed, we need to create that culture. It happened during lockdown. I used to be shocked when I went to a toilet and people who had not washed their hands came out. We are now going back to our bad habits. Although the regulations have gone, could the messaging still go out to persuade people that the steps we took during lockdown and before these regulations are still worth doing?