In the last week the Government has made significant progress to defeat COVID-19. We have rapidly developed our small and specialised diagnostics industry and scaled it at an exponential pace. Now anyone in the UK over the age of five who has COVID-19 symptoms can apply for a test online or by calling 119 if you do not have access to the internet.
Additionally, scientists at the Government’s Porton Down labs have confirmed that an antibody test, designed to show if you’ve had the virus, has shown to be as close to 100% accurate as possible. The Government is working to get the test ready for roll out across the nation as soon as possible. You may also have heard the Government has launched trials for COVID detection dogs, to identify humans carrying the virus before symptoms even appear.
More broadly pre-existing plans for a national Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre have been accelerated to open in the Summer of 2021, twelve months ahead of schedule. This centre will have the capacity to produce enough vaccine doses for the entire population within six months of a vaccine being identified and required so that our country has this capability for future threats.
We are also establishing a robust track and trace system to close in on the virus and we have recruited more than 21,000 contract tracers in England who have received rigorous training. They will trace the contacts of anyone who tests positive and advise them on whether they need to isolate. This will work alongside the NHS COVID-19 app, which we are piloting on the Isle of Wight and will then roll out across the rest of the country. Taken together, that means that we now have the elements that we need to roll out our national test and trace service: the testing capacity, the tracing capability and the technology.
This means we can gradually and cautiously unwind lockdown measures in line with the Government’s roadmap published last week reassured by our significantly bolstered ability to track, trace and be alert to the virus. The end is in sight: we are through the peak, have reduced the number of patients in critical care by two thirds, and mercifully seen the number of deaths across all settings fall, but we must continue with the same collective resolve that has allowed us to make such significant progress.
The threat of COVID-19 has laid bare the continued tensions between democracies and autocracies, and how nations with malign interests will exploit any opportunity, including a worldwide pandemic, to secure their objectives. In light of this I continue my work on national security matters, and last week I became the first newly elected Member of Parliament to ever be appointed to the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, which monitors our National Security Strategy. I have also been appointed a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which will allow me to work directly with Ministers on some of our local priorities such as broadband provision, growing our local economies, and protecting the heritage of our beautiful area.