James Grundy MP: Vaccination is still our best tool
With the spread of the new Omicron variant of Coronavirus, the pressure being put on our health services is once again rising and the Government has decided to implement ‘Plan B’.
On Tuesday 14th December, I and my fellow MPs voted on the implementation of some of the main measures proposed in ‘Plan B’; including face covering mandates, self-isolation rules and importantly, over the use of the NHS COVID Pass (vaccine passports).
I am on board with the Government’s decision to enact most of these measures, previously set out in summer this year, as keeping the NHS free of avoidable stresses and reducing the spread of Omicron are imperative until we can learn more about this particular variant and how to treat it best.
Whilst I am broadly in favour of the action taken in response to the recent spread and impact of Omicron, I am, however, maintaining my stance over vaccine passports.
The timing of this decision is wrong and I believe it lacks a clear basis in scientific evidence.
Currently, there is relatively little evidence that Omicron is more deadly than previous variants and our understanding of its potential impact is limited.
Additionally, we know that vaccinated people can and do spread the virus and that other countries who have implemented COVID-status certification have not witnessed noticeable reductions in COVID transmission as a result.
I maintain my view, and that of many residents across the Leigh constituency, that the COVID Pass will be costly to administer, present clear challenges to enforce and will result in the sectors that have already been hit the hardest by the pandemic being under threat once again.
Asking people to present this at pubs, nightclubs or larger public events falls short when those very same people will have been mixing with other members of the public in supermarkets, on public transport and at work without having to present any pass to do so.
Alongside this, there is no enforceable way to ensure that reported negative lateral flow tests were indeed actually taken and not just inputted as negative.
Consequentially, I believe their implementation to be ineffective and hurtful to our local economy and the wider public.
We need to ensure that vaccination is as simple and accessible a process for everyone as possible, and I hope to speak to colleagues in Parliament on how we can implement more measures to assist those who struggle with mobility or transport, schemes such as mobile vaccination centres or home visits, as well as bringing more regional vaccine centre sites into use, to help ensure that as many people who wish to be vaccinated are able to do so quickly and easily to encourage as many people as possible to go and get vaccinated.
I maintain that the best tool we have against Coronavirus is still our successful vaccination programme and incredible health and social care workers.
Getting the jab and boosters where advised is the most effective way to move past this virus and its strains.
I continue to urge those across the Leigh constituency that are yet to be vaccinated to book yourself a quick appointment to get your jab and protect yourself and others as best you can against COVID.
We all need to do our bit in the fight against Coronavirus, especially with the spread of Omicron, and I know the announcement of new measures will feel to many like a step backwards.
Fortunately, we have shown that we can overcome the virus and return to a state of normality.
Omicron is another hurdle we simply have to cross and getting vaccinated will help keep our health services fighting and reduce the impact of this new variant.
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