Statement on temporary Omicron measures
Today, I will be voting in favour of the Government’s plan to slow down the spread of the Omicron variant to give scientists and the NHS vaccination programme time.
I believe there is justification for some time-limited precautions in the face of a tidal wave of Omicron coronavirus cases.
Firstly, new data suggests that two doses of the vaccines offer substantially less protection against this variant. A booster jab is needed to ensure maximum protection.
Secondly, early analysis suggests this variant is spreading more rapidly than the Delta variant, meaning the number of cases could double every 2.5 or 3 days.
We do not know whether this variant is more harmful to people. However, even if it is milder, Omicron’s ability to spread quickly and dodge our vaccine shield means many more people could require hospitalisation.
I hope Omicron proves to be less problematic than feared. But I do believe we need to buy scientists more time to investigate and give the NHS space to offer all adults their booster jab by the end of the year.
That’s why I support the Government’s plan to introduce a set of new measures that will be reviewed in three weeks and expire in six.
Firstly, people will be asked to work from home to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.
Secondly, face coverings will be compulsory in most indoor settings, including cinemas, theatres and places of worship. Masks will not be required in hospitality venues such as pubs, cafes and restaurants as it’s not practical.
Thirdly, people will be required to show either a recent negative result from a lateral flow test or proof that they are fully vaccinated or to enter nightclubs or large, crowded venues.
I made it clear to Ministers that I will not support vaccine passports that are divisive and indefensible. On balance, I believe this compromise proposal, which will allow people to show a negative lateral flow test result instead of their vaccine status, is an acceptable temporary measure.
Fourthly, fully vaccinated people will be advised to limit their social contact with others and take daily tests for seven days instead of self-isolating. This is a proportionate response and will limit disruption, and I will support it.
Finally, frontline NHS and social care staff must be fully vaccinated from April 2022. This measure is about the duty of care in hospitals and care homes to protect the vulnerable people most at risk from coronavirus. It extends a pre-existing principle in the NHS, whereby doctors are already required to be immunised against chickenpox, rubella, measles and Hepatitis B.
One study estimates that fully vaccinated people are 50% to 60% less at risk of infection. If doubled jabbed NHS and social care staff are less likely to catch coronavirus, they are less likely to pass it on to their elderly, disabled or seriously ill patients.
These measures will only buy scientists and the NHS some time. They will not be able to stop the Omicron variant in its tracks. If we are going to save lives and keep Orpington open, we must all get our booster jabs. I will get mine this week. I urge you to get yours as well by booking online.
If you or your business needs support with these new measures, please email my office so my team and I can help: email@example.com.