This time next week it will be two days until Christmas. I hope as many as possible are making plans and looking forward to a well deserved break. As always our thanks go to those in the emergency services and others who will be working at that time. Politics is not overflowing with the Christmas spirit at the moment but that can be the way of things especially when dealing with issues as important as restrictions on our lives.
On Tuesday I voted against the Government on vaccine passports and also on compulsory vaccinations for NHS staff. The latter, as I understand it, will mean over 70,000 NHS staff have to leave in April - capacity we can’t afford to lose. I have consistently encouraged people to get vaccinated, and will continue to do so, but I will always be against the decision not being a voluntary one. Data out of South Africa continues to indicate the Omicron variant is very much milder in effect than Delta and over 95% of the adult U.K. population should be protected from severe disease due to general immunity (T and B cell type rather than neutralising antibodies).
Vaccine passports are simply a bad idea. There is no evidence passports will do anything to drive down infection rates and the introduction would cross a fundamental line in terms of what we as citizens are required to do in order to live our lives. Centralised storage of health records in government surveillance apps on our phones is also an awful precedent that absolutely has to be resisted.
This week we were told vaccine passports would allow nightclubs and large sporting events to proceed which might sound good initially but we also heard two jabs are not enough to prevent transmission anyway (because those neutralising antibodies don’t work against omicron). It’s clear from this that regular lateral flow testing is a much better way of taking infectious cases of COVID out of circulation.
It continues to be the case that in South Somerset we have relatively few serious COVID cases but businesses and people’s lives continue to suffer. Reports of people with depression and related illnesses continue to be higher than pre-pandemic levels and there is a knock-on effect of routine medical appointments and surgeries being cancelled. Children in other parts of the country missed appointments that may have spotted their abuse. So let’s be rational and not over-react.
Away from this national debate I have continued work on a number of local issues. I am continuing to liaise with other MPs about how important it is we all support Leonardo and the wonderful opportunities it creates. I am in touch with the Department for Justice about the best ways to get people with addiction problems not to reoffend as I know that is a big concern for residents of Hendford Hill. I am also engaged with the local NHS, County Council and others about our booster rollout. The NHS and volunteers have been brilliant but if we can reduce journey times and waiting lists for those unable to go to a centre I will do all I can to support that.