‘More complex’ Covid-19 rules would need an opera to explain, minister suggests

A senior minister has admitted Covid-19 restrictions have become “more complex”, joking comedian Matt Lucas would have to “write an opera” to address them all.

But Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt defended the Government’s response and insisted the nation wants regional and local lockdowns as opposed to a nationwide blanket lockdown.

Labour’s Fleur Anderson (Putney) had criticised the Government’s “shambolic” communications campaign and urged for more clarity when explaining the rules.

Mr Lucas released charity song Thank You Baked Potato earlier this year to help feed NHS workers.

The song was an updated version of one he performed two decades ago on comedy TV quiz programme Shooting Stars.

It includes the lyrics: “Wash your hands, stay indoors, thank you baked potato. Only go to grocery stores, thank you baked potato.”


Speaking in the Commons, Ms Mordaunt said: “I fully recognise that the rules have got more complex. If Matt Lucas were recreating the ‘baked potato’ song now, he would be having to write an opera.

“They’re more complex because we have regional and local lockdowns as opposed to a blanket lockdown, and I think that’s what the nation wants.

“We want to keep our economy going, we want to give people as much freedom as we possibly can, whilst fighting this virus.

“What I would also say is that, by and large, the public, although they are fed up, they are following this, they are working together with that collective responsibility to beat this virus.

“All members of this House can help deliver those messages by putting them on their Twitter feeds, by communicating them. Only by working together are we going to defeat this virus.”

Gnomeo and Juliet Premiere – London
Gnomeo and Juliet Premiere – London

Labour MP Chris Elmore (Ogmore) also raised concerns over those travelling from areas under lockdown measures in England to holiday in Wales.

He said: “In England, those people under restricted areas are able to travel into Wales to go on holiday. In Wales, if you’re in a restricted area like in my constituency, you are not allowed to travel to go on holiday.

“This has been asked of the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister this week.

“Could (Ms Mordaunt) or indeed (Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove) talk to the Prime Minister to say to people in England if you’re living in a restricted area, please don’t go on holiday, please don’t travel into Wales, please don’t spread the virus.”

Ms Mordaunt responded: “I will certainly take that up on behalf of (Mr Elmore).

“I think it is one of the benefits of the four nations working together that we try and have as much consistency and anticipate one set of rules, the impact it will have particularly on communities living near those borders.”

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) said: “The Government has bypassed the NHS, outsourcing billions of pounds of contracts and backroom deals to their mates which then fail to deliver.

“Fail to deliver PPE on time that fits, fail to deliver testing capacity that’s needed and fail to deliver a national tracing programme that contacts everyone who’s infected.”

Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez responded: “DHSC have procured over 32 billion items from UK-based manufacturers and international partners. It is an incredibly difficult task at an incredibly difficult time.”