As you will know, in the last week of Parliamentary business MPs voted on measures to introduce stronger measures to tackle the rising cases of Covid-19. I was not able to be present in Parliament for the votes due to personal matters that arose.
I acknowledge that restrictions have had an enormous impact on many people’s lives, and there are understandably strong views held on all sides of the debate. I wish that these measures were not needed and that the danger of the Coronavirus pandemic was not a reoccurring reality.
However, I will always act in the best interests of our NHS, our public health and our nation. I therefore support the additional measures outlined by the Government as part of its ‘Plan B’ to contain the spread of COVID-19. But I do not do so lightly. Restrictions impact on people’s lives, livelihoods, and liberties.
I think Covid passes are an essential measure to limit the spread of the virus at large events and venues – which could otherwise turn into super-spreading events. There is also evidence that these passports have been successful in European countries, which is very encouraging.
Covid passes can also help to support businesses by giving people the confidence to go out and allow venues to operate at higher capacity. Without these measures – and with rising infections and more hospitalisations – we risk seeing the Government forced to impose more draconian measures on these sectors, shutting down our cultural sector and collapsing the economy once again.
I have some concerns and reservations about the mandatory vaccination of NHS staff, as I fear this could cause more loss to the NHS workforce at a time we need them more strong, and more resourced. I believe the best way to encourage all NHS to get vaccinated is to provide more messaging on how safe the vaccine is, how effective it is, and how much it is needed. This would be more impactful than forcing staff to get vaccinated or have the threat of job loss.
I assure you I do not want these regulations in place longer than is necessary. But this is a concerning moment in the pandemic. We have learned it is vital to act decisively. The ‘Plan B’ precautionary measures have been recommended by the chief medical officer and the chief scientific advisers and are based on scientific evidence. They are proportionate, necessary and will give us time to get people boosted and better understand the Omicron variant.
Meanwhile I will continue to argue against any wide-ranging rollout of certification based on vaccination status alone. I welcome that the Government has accepted the Opposition’s proposal to give people the option of presenting a negative test as an alternative to certification, and that certification will not be required for access to essential services, for example in emergency health settings.
I encourage all my constituents to get two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and an additional booster when they can. This is absolutely essential for stopping the spread of the virus and limiting the severity of the illness if it is caught. Please also return to wearing face masks in public spaces, particularly indoors, and limit your social interactions.
I do hope you and your families are able to stay safe and healthy over the Christmas period.