Below is the speech that I intended to deliver in the debate in Parliament yesterday about ‘long Covid’. Unfortunately due to time constraints I was unable to speak.
“Thank you Mr/ Madam Speaker/ deputy Speaker.
I pay tribute to the Honourable Member for Oxford West and Abingdon as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus and for securing this important debate at a time when the long-term effects of Covid are still largely unknown.
It is also a moment to thank the unsung heroes of this pandemic who have worked relentlessly in order to keep our country moving – in particularly the cleaners, transport workers, shop staff, firefighters and police officers. And, of course, all NHS workers who are so bravely battling this deadly virus. It is at times like this when the Government must do all it can to recognise their efforts and give them the proper pay rise they deserve.
A number of my constituents who are suffering the effects of ‘Long Covid’ have contacted me about this debate and their stories are very troubling, with several telling me they were left with no alternative but to pay for private medical investigations in order to be properly diagnosed, after their condition left them so poorly they were forced to either turn down work or take long term leave from their current employment.
Mr/ Madam Speaker/ Deputy Speaker, regional inequality has made the pandemic even more acute in areas such as the North West where my Stockport constituency is based. Indeed, a recent report by the Northern Health Science Alliance revealed that Covid has killed proportionately more people in the north than the rest of England, in large part due to deprivation.
That doesn’t simply mean people in poor health being more susceptible to serious illnesses; it also means low-paid employees who are unable to do their jobs from home, who are forced to travel to work on public transport on a daily basis, or those that live in cramped living conditions with little opportunity to socially distance, having a far higher chance of catching the virus and suffering the long-term consequences.
This situation has been made far worse by the extremely low rate of Statutory Sick Pay in the UK compared to the rest of Europe, which means many are left with little choice but to risk the health of themselves and their families by continuing to work to make ends meet. This is completely unacceptable and the Government has to increase the £95.85 weekly amount it currently pays so that people can afford to follow the guidance to self-isolate and are not pushed into hardship or poverty in the process.
The current vaccination programme – while welcomed – is not a silver bullet and must factor in ‘long Covid’. That means considering the risk of developing the condition in groups that are not classed as clinically vulnerable.
Mr/ Madam Speaker/ Deputy Speaker, it is time to level up the regional divide by ensuring that the likes of the North West receive as much support as the south when it comes to ‘long Covid’ clinics.
It also means greater parity when it comes to identifying the reasons behind ‘long Covid’, and the Government must rapidly increase research funding for the study of the long-term effects of coronavirus on people’s health. And that has to also be extended to those who were not hospitalised or tested since last March, despite displaying symptoms and having to self-isolate.
Until the Government gets to grips with this condition, we will not be fully able to support those who continue to suffer the very worst effects of this virus, many months after contracting it.