Response on Covid-19 Measures Vote Today 14/12/21

There is absolutely no intention to bring in “vaccine passports”.  We are asking people to have a Lateral Flow Test or to show their vaccination status before they attend heavily-attended activities in a small number of relatively high-risk environments. This will help the staff that work there keep safe, and also help protect others who are attending. Businesses have been reporting a sharp drop in trade because people are worried about Omicron. These measures will allow them – and their customers – to have greater confidence that shopping and socialising can still be safe and enjoyable. I have received a huge amount of correspondence on the measures we are voting on today, and while it is evenly split for and against, I keep all of it in mind in my work in Parliament. We have to balance a number of things in setting policy – the rights of people who do not wish to be vaccinated, the rights of those who have been vaccinated, the good of the economy, and ensure we take the quickest route to being able to lift all restrictions.
In the circumstances today I think these measures are sensible, and I will be supporting them. They are explicitly time-limited, with a review in three weeks and, by default, expiry in six weeks. It is not a draconian “vaccine passport” as it gives people choices - those who have not had the vaccine can still show the organisers that they do not have Coronavirus.  90% of the population have had one jab, and over 80% have now had two – there is overwhelming support for the vaccination programme among the public. More and more people are booking booster jabs, with the evidence showing that doing this is an effective way of limiting the damage any of the variants in circulation can do.
I am grateful for the hard work our NHS staff and volunteers are doing and they have my full support. I understand that Queen Alexandra Hospital, which serves many constituents, has today declared a “critical incident”. The hospital is nearing capacity patients because are still coming in with serious complications from Covid. I keep in close touch with all our NHS organisations and GP surgeries. I am mindful of the need to limit the flow of hospitalisations with Covid so that we can continue treatment for other conditions and catch up with the backlog of cases which had built up earlier in the pandemic.
Wearing masks and allowing people to work from home where they can is also sensible to help prevent the spread of Omicron. The scientists are still assessing the data on how dangerous the variant is, and if it turns out to be less severe than the early modelling and data suggest then of course I will be pressing for a full return to normality and the removal of any restrictions. I have only ever supported any restrictions on individuals or businesses with the greatest reluctance, and I have challenged Ministers when I disagree with them. I will continue to do this, and it is essential that we can return to our lives as they were before the pandemic as soon as it is safely possible for society.
The Government has a responsibility to keep the population safe. We are trying to get a balance between making regulations at the same time as allowing the economy and businesses to continue freely, and to ensure the NHS can treat the people most in need quickly. This is one of the reasons why we have not banned Christmas parties or other seasonal activities – they can be done safely, with the right precautions. I hope that by cooperating with these measures people will be able to enjoy a safe and happy Christmas.