In a bid to fight the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, the Government today brought forward an emergency powers Bill to Parliament. The crisis legislation would grant ministers powers to shut airports and ground flights, for example. However, at one point, Matt Hancock, who was presenting it to the Commons, found himself in a heated exchange with Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
Concerned the public may not be listening to Government advice, Ms Lucas called on the Health Secretary to launch a much bigger public education campaign.
She told him: “I mean this in a constructive way but it does feel like we are constantly behind the curve.
“We are always waiting for people not to do what we’ve asked them to do before we then step in and try to introduce more strict communications.
“So I would beg him, will he underpin this legislation and everything else the Government is doing with a much bigger, wider, louder, more comprehensive public education campaign?”
The Green Party MP continued: “Because right now it clearly is not getting through.
“We need to be doing an awful lot more to be able to catch up and get ahead of this.”
Mr Hancock was not impressed with the accusation, telling that House that it was already being undertaken.
He shot back: “This is the most comprehensive public communications campaign probably in the history of Government peacetime communications.
The Prime Minister had told the country: “We’ve already taken some very draconian steps, we’ve closed the schools and a huge swathe of the UK economy … a huge quantity of our normal daily life has been transformed.
“It is very important for people’s mental and psychical wellbeing that they should be able to get out and exercise. That’s why parks and open spaces are absolutely crucial.
“If people don’t exercise responsibly in the parks and green spaces, there is going to be no doubt we are going to bring forward further measures and we are keeping that under constant review.”