In light of the increased threat of the Omicron variant, the government has decided to enact the ‘Plan B’ measures set out in the summer, designed to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed.
This decision is based on three key reasons: the dramatically increased transmissibility of the variant, the unknown severity of Omicron, and the likelihood that there is lower immunity from vaccination when compared to past variants.
As we learn to live with Covid, it is important that we balance the harms caused by social and economic restrictions with the need to protect public health. While I fully appreciate the impact of the pandemic on people's lives, and that many constituents are tired of living with restrictions, we have a duty to protect our communities.
With cases rising rapidly as we approach winter, we have to consider the danger that the virus sweeps through our health and social care workforce during the NHS’s busiest period, causing a significant amount of pressure. We cannot let our NHS be overwhelmed.
I would like to clarify what happened in the Chamber yesterday evening and to explain what the vote was for. I did not vote to introduce mandatory vaccination passports. I voted to ensure people can continue to attend venues where large crowds gather in a safe manner, irrespective of vaccination status. Our night-time hospitality has suffered during the pandemic, employing hundreds of thousands across the nation. Many of my constituents working in this field have emailed me directly to express their concerns.
With effect from today, certain hospitality venues such as the examples below will be required to check all people entering their sites have proof of either a negative lateral flow test in the last 48 hours, or a valid exemption. Those who have been double vaccinated can use their NHS Covid Pass, while those using a lateral flow test can show their Test and Trace email.
- indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people
- unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people
- any venue with more than 10,000 people
- N.B. there are some settings that will be exempt from the above requirements: including communal worship, wedding ceremonies, funerals and other commemorative events.
To be absolutely clear, you do not have to be vaccinated to attend these mass events. A negative lateral flow test will be sufficient evidence to demonstrate COVID-status. These can be ordered online for free or collected at a pharmacy and taken at home.
Working from home if you can and wearing a mask in enclosed spaces are steps we can all take to protect each other. Vaccination remains our strongest line of defence against this virus. The government has launched a national public health mission of offering every adult a booster jab before the New Year. Everybody aged 18 and over can now book a jab online, and I urge everybody to get theirs as soon as possible. We must continue to ensure that those who wish to receive their booster can do so quickly, safely, and efficiently.
The UK Armed Forces have been tasked with supporting the NHS in the COVID-19 vaccine deployment with logistics and planning. I know people are working around the clock to vaccinate as many people as possible. I would like to thank all these personnel for their service and commitment to this extraordinary effort.
I am speaking with Oxfordshire County Council daily to support their vaccination efforts. This evening, we are holding a joint meeting with Oxfordshire Conservative MPs and public health officials to discuss how we can work together to increase local vaccine deployment and testing provision.
The government will review these new regulations on 5 January and will provide an update to Parliament.
You can read more about the move to Plan B here: https://www.gov.uk/.../prime-minister-confirms-move-to...