This week, as I write, we are all anxiously waiting to find out more about the new Covid-19 variant, known as Omicron, which has set off alarm bells around the world. Following the discovery of a small number of cases in the UK, the Government has immediately taken precautions and is re-introducing measures to try and slow down the seeding of this variant in our country in order to buy us - or rather our amazing scientists – time to understand exactly what this variant is and how it may affect us and the vaccines in their current form.
I have received emails from both anxious and irritated constituents about the re-introduction of certain measures, particularly the requirement that all international arrivals entering England must take a day two PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. I understand the anger and frustration, especially as there was very little time given for this precautionary measure to take effect. However, it is vital that we take decisive action to protect our country, as many other countries are now doing, by imposing travel restrictions. This is particularly important as we see cases of Omicron take root in countries across Europe, in addition to the rapid rise in cases in parts of Europe due to their poor take up of vaccines. Our European neighbours are already struggling without the complication of this new variant. France, for example, registered its largest jump in coronavirus-related hospital admissions since the spring and has entered a fifth wave of the pandemic. Germany’s vaccination rate at 68% is one of the lowest in western Europe. There has been an alarming rise in Covid cases, and the country is struggling to contain another wave of the pandemic with some hospitals already overwhelmed with patients.
The Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, makes no apology for taking such swift precautionary action. Afterall, the Government has been criticised in the past for not acting quickly enough; we simply cannot take chances with peoples’ health, nor can we socially or economically afford to enter into another long-term lockdown. We all need to put our duty to this country, our communities, and our families – and ultimately our duty to each other - above personal interest and the dangerous conspiracy theories that anti-vaxxers propagate. The Government is asking - all political parties are asking - people to get vaccinated, not to abuse any civil liberty but to protect peoples’ lives and, it has to be said, our economy. Millions of people around the world have died from Covid-19, but the virus has also hit the global economy, which, in itself, will have a longer-term impact on people through the knock-on effects of economic hardship. We all have to work together to ensure that this does not happen.
The anti-vax campaigns, the scare stories about heath and so on have a real-world impact and are causing avoidable deaths; many desperate people ending up in ICU and dying from Covid-19 are people who are not vaccinated out of choice. According to recent UK data, unvaccinated people over fifty years old are almost four times as likely to die from Covid than vaccinated people.
Whilst the Omicron variant is a cause for concern, we must not panic. We have better treatments than when Covid-19 was first discovered, and vaccines really do remain our best weapon in fighting this virus in all its forms. It is fantastic that so many Hastings and Rye constituents have taken up their first and second vaccines, but there remains a notable number who have yet to do so. Cases are rising in East Sussex, as are hospitalisations. I urge everyone to get vaccinated if you have not already done so and to take up your booster, which will be made available to all over 18s, as soon as you are able to do so. And please, please wear a facemask in public – it is not a silver bullet, but the more people who wear facemasks, the more effective is the reduction in transmission of the virus.
Keep Sussex Safe -