Top vaccine news this week is the government’s confidence that all over 60s will get the jab by March. This is our way out of lockdown and schools open.
And in another tremendous boost to our fight against Covid, the hot news today is a further UK vaccine, Novavax, which has shown itself to be effective against the new Kent variant of the virus. I hope that it will be cleared by the medicines regulator as soon as possible.
We have now vaccinated nearly eight million people with their first jab. Over £230m has been invested in vaccine manufacturing. The government should be given much credit for its early and decisive investment in vaccines. This is now paying dividends in the sheer number of jabs we can give and, importantly, in our ability to become a world leader defending us all for future pandemics. It very much appears we are going to have to be agile as these viruses mutate.
Vaccines news in Meon Valley is very encouraging. I attended the weekly local resilience forum and I was pleased to hear that Hampshire is doing extremely well in the vaccine roll out with four in five over 80s now vaccinated. We will soon be moving on to those over 75s.
The numbers of covid-19 cases are going down, but we still have an increase in people in intensive care beds, although local hospitals are coping. This means that, despite all this good vaccine news, we still need to keep to lockdown restrictions.
On a national scale, restrictions were announced on travel this week with 22 countries (and counting) on a list and UK nationals cannot travel there. We had already maintained one of the strictest approaches to border control but the risk of the mutated viruses from South Africa, Portugal and South America has increased. It means people coming in from those countries will now have to be isolated in government provided accommodation at their own expense.
I agree with this move especially as we will be stepping up physical checks on other travellers to make sure that they are following the rules and self-isolating when they enter the UK.
The Prime Minister announced this week that we will review the lockdown situation in mid-Feb and set out the results of the review in the week starting 22nd February.
I hope that this will mean that we can fully open schools – I want to pay tribute to all the teachers and school staff that have kept our schools open for key worker children at the same time as having to prepare and deliver online training for those at home. A truly amazing feat.
In parliament, I spoke about the opportunities that Covid-19 has brought to a systemic review of education and how governments around the world should be concentrating on connectivity and software to enable education to be delivered including lifelong learning. As usual, we are limited to three minutes and you can see my speech here: need link
One of my more interesting zoom meetings this week was hearing from Lord Frost and Oliver Lewis about the EU negotiations and the strategy they used. They had very clear guidelines from the Prime Minister about what was to be achieved and that was helpful reaching the final agreement.
The challenge now is to make our economy even more adaptable and resilient and I am confident that the strategy is now in place to move forward.
Lastly, there was a very moving online service for Holocaust Memorial Day. It now includes other acts of genocide in Rwanda, Darfur and Bosnia. There is a movement among my colleagues in Parliament to put forward an amendment in the Trade Bill to ask courts to look at other countries’ behaviour to see whether they have committed acts of genocide, for example with the Uighurs in China.
I do not support this amendment in the Trade Bill This is a FCDO issue and should be taken up in international courts rather than our local ones.
I hope that you all have a good weekend and keep safe.