I think we can all agree that none of us will be sad to see the back of 2020. It has been one of the toughest in memory and has seen us all have to make sacrifices. However, at the end of the year we received the brilliant news that the Pfizer vaccine was approved for use in the UK. This was then followed by the declaration that both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines are effective and safe to use in the UK. The UK now has access to three different injections which can be rolled out by the NHS. We will all remain indebted to the scientists, NHS workers and volunteers who made these vaccines available to us all.
We can see an end in sight thanks to these vaccines, but we can only return to normal when everyone has been offered the jab. There are deep concerns over the way in which the Government is handling the vaccination programme thus far as it is once again being slow-footed in bringing in local decision makers, venues and pharmacies into the rollout of the programme. I strongly believe that the best way to encourage people to take the vaccine is by being as open and transparent in how the injection is being delivered to communities. Demonstrating that all key local stakeholders are involved will see confidence increase and bring us closer to the end of lockdowns.
On Sunday I appeared on Politics Midlands where I raised concerns that the Government initially forgot England’s second city in the rollout of the vaccine. When health officials contact me, and other Birmingham MPs, you can rest assured that we will put the Government’s failings to them in the strongest possible terms.
During the programme I also discussed how the current lockdown rules were implemented too slowly, once again. The Government have known about this more virulent strain of Covid since mid-December and now our death toll is over 80,000. Before the SAGE scientific advice was published Labour was calling for tougher measures to be taken if the science demonstrated it was needed. Sadly, we have seen the Government dither and delay in key decision making and that has resulted in confusion over rules, more people being put at risk of infection and a greater strain on our NHS. They need to get a grip on the pandemic and I will be doing all I can to push for this in Parliament.
Although we have the excellent news that a vaccine is being delivered as we speak, we cannot lower our guard against the virus. It is still in our communities and we must all act as if we have Covid-19. Only that way will we stop the spread, protect the NHS and save lives. If you need more information on coronavirus restrictions you should visit the gov.uk website.
It is also important for you to remember that the NHS will contact you when it is your turn to get the vaccine. You do not need to call your GP to arrange. I have also heard of horrific cases where scammers are contacting people with offers of the jab to steal either money or information from their victims. Be vigilant against this. The NHS is providing the vaccine for free and will never ask for personal information.
In the (virtual) Parliamentary Chamber, I once again called for action against China in the face of their treatment of Uighurs. As many of you know, evidence is mounting against the Chinese state which shows they are forcing Uighurs into labour camps, sterilising women and undertaking violence against individuals. The Foreign Secretary’s announcement fell short of what is needed. It amounted to nothing more than a slap on the wrist for China when what we need is to show that the UK is a nation that stands up for human rights and the freedom of the individual. We must start calling the actions of China for what they are: genocide. People in Xinjiang are being murdered for their faith and ethnicity.
I have already signed an amendment to the Financial Services Bill which would take real action. But yet again we saw a failure of leadership from the Government. The Foreign Secretary told me that he will not be supporting this amendment. Rest assured I will continue to stand up for Uighurs and human rights across the world. If we are to truly become a global Britain we must defend these values at home and abroad.
If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0121 661 9440. My team and I are of course subject to many of the same challenges and restrictions as other families in Birmingham Ladywood at the minute, but we will do everything we can to help constituents in these difficult times. And do check my website for our opening hours over Christmas and emergency contacts.
Keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!