We now find ourselves in the twilight zone as the country pins hope for the protection of the most at risk groups, resumption of normality in education, the opening of businesses, reduced pressure in our hospitals and our release from draconian measures restricting our freedoms on the rapid and effective roll out of vaccines against Covid-19.
Nationally much is going in the right direction but we have had mixed coverage across my South Thanet constituency. At the Thanet end the vaccination of the over 80s and other at-risk groups has been progressing quite well but it has been a different story in and around Sandwich. To say I am annoyed with the various bodies responsible would be an understatement and I have spent the entire weekend working with local MP colleagues, badgering Ministers and NHS officials to get a better picture of the local vaccination plan.
As I write this, good news is emerging that the first appointments for Sandwich will start at the end of this week and over the weekend, the only downside being that these will be administered in Dover. What is becoming clear is that in the medium-term we will need a local super-centre to ensure that East Kent gets its vaccinations at speed and I am looking at various potential sites and putting these to Ministers. We have plenty of possible options with good parking and accessibility. We need to be on a war footing as each vaccine saves lives and brings us one step closer to normality.
The next question will be at what point can we start to open up? The government’s plan is to have the top four at-risk groups vaccinated by mid-February. This should take 80% of people out of risk of mortality and hospitalisation. This resets risk across the rest of us more to an annual ‘normal’ flu situation.
Add three weeks (the timeframe for the immune response to build) to mid-February comes to a date of March 8. Can this be the horizon date for the jump back down the tiering system? I hope so. In the interim, surely the vaccinated elderly, many who have suffered greatly with the effect of loneliness and worry over this long period, should be able to re-commence contact with their friends, similarly protected through vaccination, at the earliest opportunity. This is a key question that I shall try to raise in the House of Commons this week.
In the Parliamentary world, we face, after request by The Speaker, further moves online and further restrictions within the Parliamentary estate. I am uncomfortable with this no matter that I am part of the governing Party. I wish to hold the government to account on your behalf and have the opportunity to be troublesome if necessary. The arrangements do not allow for this as fully as in normal times so cannot continue any longer than is needed.
As part of the government’s levelling up agenda I was pleased that Ramsgate Town Centre is to receive £2.7m from the Future High Streets fund. Many national bids were entirely unsuccessful so this is all new money to pump prime private investment to magnify the government’s grant funding.
All High Streets will need to consider how they need to adapt their offer as places of interest to visit as well as shop as the move to online shopping increasingly gathers pace. Lots of other activity on Ramsgate Port as I progress community thoughts on its future.
Keep positive and keep well.