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Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus developments are unfolding ever more quickly, and leaving the most vulnerable in our communities at risk. Find out what we are doing to ensure everyone gets the support they need.

By Liberal Democrats, Apr 06, 2020 4:04

We are leading a cross-party call for improved mental health support amidst Covid-19 crisis

Social distancing means millions are now home alone, facing the prospect of only the most minimal contact with another soul for months. This isolation is likely to have a grave impact on their mental health.

Millions more, without being completely isolated, will still be struggling with the rapid changes the coronavirus has wrought upon our way of life. People's anxiety will be further fueled by concern for the health of loved ones, or stress resulting from the impact of the pandemic on jobs and livelihoods. 

Given the unprecedented events we are living through, the need for mental health support could not be clearer. That’s why the government must signpost the appropriate support services to every household, and adequately fund the charities that provide those services.

Writing to the Secretary of Health, Munira Wilson MP and a cross-party group of Parliamentarians have expressed fears that government advice to stay at home will leave people “worried about coronavirus, their jobs, housing” and “anxious about their family’s health and their own.”

Over 40 MPs from across the political spectrum have signed the letter highlighting the “inextricable link” between mental and physical health and urging the Government to:

  • launch a publicity campaign signposting the mental health support available during the coronavirus crisis.
  • send public health leaflets, which include advice on looking after mental  health and signposts to organisations that can offer mental health support during the crisis, to all homes.
  • increase the level of funding for mental health charities offering support during the coronavirus crisis, to reduce pressure on the NHS.

For more information about how you can take care of your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, the mental health charity Mind has some useful guidance here.

Shifting goalposts for ventilator targets risks public confidence

Responding to the Health Secretary's statement today on the Andrew Marr Show that the required target for ventilators has been lowered to 18,000 from 30,000, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said: 

"Rather than shift the goalposts for vital equipment like ventilators, the Government must be realistic in the promises it makes during this crisis. Ministers are now risking losing public confidence in their ability to meet the goals already set out, whether on increasing the number of tests or the availability of personal protective equipment for frontline health and social care staff."

The vast majority of people will do whatever they can to support the NHS, protect their loved ones and help in their communities through this crisis.

In return, people want to be reassured that every single avenue is being explored to find solutions to pressing problems. With lives at stake, transparency could not be more critical.

Govt must go further to prevent Covid-19 crisis in prisons

Responding to news that the Ministry of Justice will temporarily release risk-assessed prisoners who are within two months of their release date to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading in prisons, Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

"It's a relief to see that the Government are finally listening to prison governors, who have been warning of a Covid-19 crisis in overcrowded prisons for weeks. This decision should have come much sooner given the scale of the threat.

The Government must urgently take steps to further reduce risk in prisons, including releasing all low-risk prisoners serving short sentences - not just those already reaching the final months of their sentence. This would significantly reduce overcrowding in prisons, better protecting prison staff, prisoners and - by reducing transmission - help our NHS.

Lib Dems call for scrutiny through virtual Parliament

Responding to the news that the Prime Minister has invited opposition party leaders to attend a briefing on the coronavirus, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"We will of course engage with the Government about its strategy to tackle the coronavirus during this national crisis, continuing the constructive approach to questioning we have adopted from the start."

The best way to work together to combat this crisis is to ensure opposition parties are able to question the Government effectively so we can improve policy."

There are vital issues to address, not least how testing capacity is expanded faster, how our front-line health and social care staff access proper protective kit and how to cushion the economic crisis so groups of people aren’t unfairly excluded and our most vulnerable citizens aren’t left behind.

Opportunities for scrutiny must not just come by invitation from the Prime Minister - this should be an ongoing Parliamentary process.

That is why the Liberal Democrats have been calling for the creation of a New Zealand-style virtual Coronavirus Select Committee, with representation from across the House, chaired by the Leader of the Opposition and an early recall of a streamlined, virtual Parliament.

Our response to election of Sir Keir Starmer as Leader of the Labour Party 

Responding to the election of Sir Keir Starmer as the new Leader of the Labour Party, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

"At this moment of national crisis, the role of all opposition parties must be to support measures to tackle the coronavirus, whilst also standing up for the most vulnerable by properly scrutinising the Government. I look forward to working with Keir Starmer on that task."

Saving lives from coronavirus remains the absolute priority. Vital issues such as expanding testing capacity, access to adequate protective equipment for frontline health and social care staff, and ensuring the most vulnerable are not left behind as a result of the economic uncertainty are at the top of the agenda. 

Liberal Democrats will always work with whoever we can to pursue our liberal values, to fight for action on the climate crisis and to build a more caring and just society. In those areas where we share common ground, Liberal Democrats and Labour now have an opportunity to work together, along with other progressive forces. 

As the chapter closes on one Labour leader, we hope the new one can see the Labour party play a constructive role in building an effective multi party opposition. That will be the litmus test of Keir Starmer’s leadership.

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