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View from Westminster: ‘The virus doesn’t recognise Christmas’

There is a huge focus on Christmas, understandably. We’ve had nine long months of restrictions, writes Harriet Harman MP…

And Christmas is the most important time of the year for families to get together even for the many people in Southwark who still have to work across the Christmas period because they are providing vital services. To ensure that we are able to get together with family members who don’t live with us, we need to ensure that we keep strictly to the regulations.

The infection level is coming down, but if we let down our guard it will start going up again and we will not be able to have the temporary relaxation in the rules we are all hoping for. It’s true to say that the virus does not recognise it’s Christmas!

It seems inevitable that after Christmas we’ll have to put on the brakes again to compensate for the progress the virus will have made during the temporary lockdown. So the government must keep the financial support going for all those who have been unable to work during the restrictions or whose work has been curtailed.

Some people have not stayed at home as they should do when they’ve come into contact with someone who’s tested positive because they can’t afford the loss of income from not going to work. So, the government have got to plug the gaps for all those who fall outside the compensation scheme to make sure that businesses can survive and that people can afford to stay home to protect others.

But the restrictions seem more bearable when the solution is in sight. And that is a vaccine which will protect us from getting ill and prevent the disease from spreading.

The scientists in Oxford and elsewhere have worked miracles. The first people offered the vaccine in December will be those working in the health and caring services. Most will jump at the chance to make themselves, their families and those they care for safe. But I hope all will.

The more of us who have the vaccine the safer everyone will be. So when we have the vaccine we are doing something not just for ourselves but for our local community. We need all those who can be vaccinated to do so in order to protect those who have those rare health conditions which mean they can’t be vaccinated.

We’ve got no right to refuse the vaccine if our doing so means continued risk for someone who can’t have the vaccine. The vaccine is safe. It’s been rigorously tested. And it works.

As someone who’s over 70 I will be amongst the first offered the vaccine and I will jump at the chance. If we all do, this awful period can be put behind us and we can start to rebuild.


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