By Chris Green MP. Chris is the Conservative MP for Bolton West and a member of The Freedom Association.
The Government is continuing to deliver on its exit strategy to release us from this cycle of Covid-19 lockdowns. From the beginning, they have said that vaccinations will protect lives and are the way out from these constraints on our freedoms.
The vaccination programme continues to be hugely successful. In just three months, more than half of the adult population in the UK have received their first jab. Ministers are understandably proud of the speed of the vaccine rollout and that our timely exit from the European Union has put us a step ahead of our continental friends. Many people are more accepting of this current national lockdown, compared to the last one, because the common understanding is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It enables our vaccinators to get us ahead of the mutating virus. Why the caution when triumph is so near?
It may have been that the subdued messaging was to ensure that the focus is maintained on maximising uptake of vaccinations to build the required herd immunity. But this is already happening. Or is it because the Government is less confident that this current round of vaccinations is the way out? It need not be.
Recent results from the U.S. and South American study of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine have found that it was 79% efficacious in protecting against symptoms of Covid-19. In the trial, the two-dose shot was also 100% efficacious in protecting people from severe symptoms and hospitalisation from the disease. We should all be rejoicing at this news.
Members of Parliament ought to be weighing the cost of the disease against the damage done by the cycle of lockdowns. The ‘Catch Up With Cancer’ campaign reckons that the NHS backlog could result in 35,000 cancer deaths alone. It will take the NHS two years running at 120 per cent of current of pre-Covid capacity to catch up. What of those other life and death medical conditions? What of those conditions that are not life or death and are about having a good standard of living such as hip replacement or cataract operations?
Children are the least affected by Covid-19, but most affected by the lockdown. Although many children attended school throughout the last closure because one of their parents was considered a key worker, many others never met another child during that time and had the barest home-learning. They may never catch up.
Imagine being a school leaver this coming summer. Unemployment is already rapidly increasing and the end of furloughing is going to add many more. There will not be much opportunity for those new job seekers.
The Government does not require another six-month extension to the Coronavirus Act on Thursday. That will take us to September, and we will see the spread of bugs as normal work patterns resume and children go back to school. It is difficult to imagine that this would not trigger another renewal of these extraordinary powers. I could understand an extension of a month or so, but certainly not over the summer.
Not renewing the Coronavirus Act sends the message to people who have been too worried to see their doctor that they can do so in confidence and that employers can start the jobs and business bounce back.
People expect this vaccination programme to be our way out. It is, and the Government should not delay in restoring our freedoms.
Watch Chris Green and Andrew Allison discuss issues addressed in this article in a podcast recorded on Wednesday 24th March