More positive news with our local vaccination roll-out. With only a week to go to hit the mid-February target, 87.8% of over 80s, 87.5% of over 75s, 63.1% of over 70s and 66.7% of the clinically extremely vulnerable in East Sussex had received their first vaccination by 8 February. Whereas the message before had been ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’, now is the time for everyone in the first four priority cohorts to contact the NHS if they’ve still not received an appointment.
Not only have our vaccination teams been busy giving the jab in centres at Sidley, Etchingham, Heathfield and Ticehurst, they have also been visiting care homes to vaccinate the vast majority of all residents. Taken as a whole, this cohort amounts to 90% of the mortality risk from COVID.
Once we vaccinate everyone over the age of 50 years, a target we aim to meet by May, we should have covered 99% of the mortality risk. An amazing result. If you are reading this and have played your part, there are not enough words to praise what you have done for your community. Thank you.
It’s important that we get everyone vaccinated. One of the reasons I was willing to support the lock-downs of this year was because I was assured that once the vaccination had been delivered, lock-downs would be over.
With this in mind. I was left bemused by a question and answer session with the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, in the Chamber this week. Matt was delivering a statement detailing new restrictions on international travel and arrivals. Passengers will now need to take one test before arrival and another two after they arrive. Whilst we are vaccinating, and to keep out mutant strains, this makes sense. However, once we have vaccinated, and we have been assured that our vaccines cover all known strains, it is important to state that this is a temporary measure which should not impact summer travel. My question to Matt was whether these measures would be lifted once we have vaccinated 99% of the mortality risk or once the vaccine has been tweaked for mutant strains. Matt’s answer, that it could last until the latter is completed, with references to Autumn, caught us all off guard. On top of this, the Transport Secretary then appeared to dismiss the idea of us holidaying in the UK this summer.
If ever we’ve deserved or needed a holiday, this is the year. In our part of the country, it’s not just a leisurely pursuit but, for many in the tourism and hospitality business, a job and a livelihood. Using my position as Chairman of the Transport Select Committee, I am determined to ensure that we get our travel industry, and our leisure time, back to some form of normality once the UK is vaccinated.
Speaking of the Committee, this week we examined bus services. A mode of transport often overlooked despite the fact that more people travel by bus than they do by train. It is more relied upon by the elderly, those in lower income brackets, rural communities and key workers. Some years back, our Committee called for a radical overhaul in bus services to ensure they delivered and were more regular. It appears the Government is now backing our bus strategy concept. We are now helping to fill in the content.
As you will read elsewhere in the newspaper, I have been campaigning on behalf of the millions of leaseholders who have been left with enormous liabilities, and homes they cannot afford to live in or sell, following the Grenfell fire. This human tragedy revealed shortcomings in cladding and building design. New rules mean this must be fixed. Leaseholders, who do not own their building outright, are being left to foot the bill by owners with empty pockets, insurers who are refusing to pay and developers who have filed for bankruptcy. The bill is £16 billion. This reaches every part of the UK and this constituency is no exception. Just last week, the Prime Minister said no leaseholder should pay, but the Government fund only reaches about a third of that commitment. I’ve signed an amendment to legislation which would ensure that the costs are covered in full and that it be paid for not by the taxpayer but by an industry levy on those who continue to enjoy large profits having washed their hands of the past. Another busy and challenging week.