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View from Westminster: One year later there has been heart-breaking loss and glimmers of hope

Next month marks a year since the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, a year which has seen heart-breaking loss and financial hardship for many people, and huge changes to our day to day lives, writes Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes…

The government’s response to the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has too frequently been last minute and inadequate and much of my time during the last year has been spent questioning and lobbying for important improvements.

The privatised Serco test and trace system is still not working as promised, despite costing more than £20 billion and despite being called for months ago, quarantining for travellers from abroad will only start next week.

The hard work of scientists around the world has however brought hope, with a series of vaccines now approved for use in the UK and more in development.

Staff across our National Health Service have been working tremendously hard to make sure that people who are at highest risk from the virus receive their jabs as soon as possible, with vaccinations being delivered at our major hospitals, at mass vaccination hubs, GP practices and some pharmacies.

Although the advice to date for high risk groups has been to wait to be contacted by the NHS for a vaccination appointment, anyone over the age of 70 who hasn’t yet been vaccinated can now book an appointment online via, by calling 119 or by contacting your local GP practice directly.

I have been really pleased to hear such positive reports from older residents, people who are extremely clinically vulnerable, NHS and care workers in my constituency who have received their jabs. The process has been quick and efficient and very impressive.

I was delighted when my Mum and Dad received their jabs recently and will be signing up to receive the vaccine myself when my turn comes around.

If you have any concerns or questions about the vaccinations, please do talk to your local GP or practice nurse who will be happy to answer any questions and address any worries. The vaccinations have been approved by the same independent organisation we rely on to confirm the safety of every other medicine we use, from paracetamol to cancer drugs, so we can have confidence that they are safe.

It is likely that COVID vaccinations will become an annual fixture, much like the annual flu jab, in order to keep pace with changes in the virus over time. For now, my heartfelt thanks go to everyone who has been involved in this tremendous effort, the scientists, nurses, doctors, pharmacists and volunteers who are working so hard to make sure that we all receive the protection that vaccination provides.


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