Liberal Democrats

F14: The COVID-19 Pandemic

Federal Policy Committee

Mover: Munira Wilson MP (Spokesperson on Health, Wellbeing & Social Care).

Summation: Baroness Brinton (Lords Spokesperson on Health, Wellbeing & Social Care).

Motion as passed by conference

 

Conference records its deep sorrow and outrage at the suffering and loss of life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, both here in the UK and globally, which has resulted in more than one hundred thousand deaths in the UK since our Autumn conference, a period of only six months.

Conference regrets the enormous economic damage caused by the virus and the hardship many people are facing, with the poorest, women and young people being hit hardest. Conference further regrets the social damage inflicted by the pandemic and the severe impact it has had on people’s mental health and wellbeing, including as a result of incidences of domestic violence increasing dramatically over the last year.

Conference pays tribute to NHS staff, social care workers and volunteers that have worked tirelessly to get as many people vaccinated as efficiently and safely as possible, and have cared for those ill with COVID-19.

Conference further pays tribute to the scientists and experts that helped to develop safe and highly effective vaccines in under a year, an unprecedented achievement.

Conference also welcomes the successful actions of local government in creating local systems involving ethnic, faith and other community leaders to drive up testing, tracing, isolating and vaccination rates amongst hard to reach individuals and communities.

Conference believes that it is clear that the UK Government failed to learn the lessons from earlier in the pandemic and failed to prepare for the Winter of 2020/21; in particular conference believes that:

  1. The Government has consistently been too late to put the country into lockdown despite rising infections and deaths.
  2. Ministers failed again to communicate clearly the importance of restrictions introduced to contain the virus, with mixed messaging, consistent conflation of guidance and rule of law, and several dithering U-turns.
  3. The Government was dishonest about the effects the Christmas relaxation of restrictions would have on the spread of the virus and the subsequent increase in deaths.
  4. The confusion over the decision to shut schools just a day after the Prime Minister insisted it was safe to keep them open was extremely disruptive.
  5. There continues to be a failure to take full advantage of the strengths and expertise of local government.
  6. The Government’s failure to impose proper restrictions at borders has led to an increased number of deaths in the UK.
  7. The test, trace and isolate system continues to fail to contact people who have come into contact with the virus and still does not provide adequate support for those required to self-isolate.
  8. Low vaccination rates amongst care workers reflects the difficulty many have had in booking appointments given their long hours and demanding work, loss of earnings without compensation, and the distance some must travel to vaccination centres.

Conference further notes that the Government broke the law by failing to report details of all contracts it has signed during the Covid pandemic; these deals were worth hundreds of millions of pounds and the public have a right to know how this money was spent and which companies were contracted to supply the Government.

In addition to reaffirming the motion passed at Autumn Conference 2020 (The Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic), conference calls on the Conservative Government to:

  1. Fix the self-isolation scheme by:
    1. Guaranteeing a payment equal to minimum wage to ensure that no one is forced to come out of isolation for lack of money.
    2. Supporting the dependents of those isolating.
    3. Providing appropriate accommodation free of charge to those who cannot easily self-isolate at home.
    4. Putting in place and funding local public health teams, working with the NHS, to check in daily on those isolating to ensure they have everything they need to continue their isolation.
  2. Mend the broken Track and Trace scheme by making much better use of existing expertise in local government.
  3. Launch an independent public inquiry as promised by Boris Johnson immediately, so that lessons can be learnt as to how to handle future outbreaks and/or pandemics.
  4. Reject the need for ‘vaccine passports’ – conference believes that ‘vaccine passports’ for domestic use:
    1. Disproportionately impact those that have not yet had their vaccination and would lead to a two-tier system between those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.
    2. Disadvantage people with certain medical conditions and those under the age of 18 who cannot be vaccinated
    3. Are difficult to enforce and could be open to forgery.
  5. Implement simultaneous and immediate rollout of UK-purchased vaccines via COVAX, at the same time as it is happening in the UK, as requested by the WHO.
  6. Support those working in the NHS and social care, and emergency services by:
    1. Ensuring they have the protective equipment they need.
    2. Providing them with adequate mental health support.
    3. Giving them a pay award that properly recognises their service.
    4. Granting all foreign nationals working in the NHS and social care indefinite leave to remain.
  7. Increase support for disabled people through the social care, housing, education and mental health systems and safeguard their rights by scrapping the relaxations within the Coronavirus Act and rejecting the blanket issuing of ‘do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation’ decisions (DNACPRs).
  8. Support those with ‘Long Covid’ by:
    1. Committing to carrying out urgent research into the longterm effects of COVID-19 disease with the aim of identifying treatments and causes.
    2. Developing a register for those suffering from Long Covid and create care pathways to ensure that all practitioners have the guidance to treat long-term COVID-19 patients effectively.
  9. Tackle the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on black, asian and minority ethnic communities, and introduce a crossgovernment Race Equality Strategy.
  10. Constantly assess and learn from countries that have successfully managed outbreaks of the virus, in particular, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and South Korea.
  11. Apply quarantine to all travellers to England, not just to those travelling from so called ‘red list’ countries where there is a high prevalence of new variants.
  12. Improve mental health support during the pandemic by:
    1. Properly signposting the mental health support available during the coronavirus crisis.
    2. Increasing the level of funding for mental health charities offering support during the coronavirus crisis.
    3. Providing additional investment in mental health services.
  13. Ensure that migrants are not prevented from accessing vaccines, healthcare or financial support, by:
    1. Suspending the ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule.
    2. Ending immigration checks and upfront charging in the NHS.
    3. Establishing a firewall to prevent public agencies from sharing personal information with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement.

 

Applicability: England only; except 5 (lines 78–80), 6 d) (lines 86–87), 13 a) (line 115) and 13 c) (lines 117–119), which are Federal.

 

 

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