December 3rd may be the first day of the rest of our lives but, for many, it will feel a lot like the day before as the Covid nightmare continues.
Yes we will be out of the second phase of “national restrictions” but we move seamlessly into the regional tiers and we should now know where Hampshire will land within that.
For some, in non-essential retail for-instance, it will be an intense period between now and Christmas to try and save their year. For others there’s nothing left to save and for some self-employed workers it’s a case of having to start over after being overlooked too many times. There’s nothing good about a pandemic; unless you’re Amazon perhaps.
There is however, a genuine sense this week that we’ve turned a Covid corner as rapid flow testing becomes a reality and the third vaccine, from our own Oxford team, reports positive news from stage three trials.
Locally, I am being briefed by the NHS on how we will be ready for rapid rollout via a Covid vaccine hub in Portsmouth. Britain is good at this stuff and never have we needed it to be better. Equally we need the public to take up this vaccine so please be ready, willing and able when the call comes.
I understand there will be vaccine worries – and dangerous misinformation about them - but I’ve worked closely in the past with the regulator (the MHRA) and constituents can be confident they will interrogate the data robustly before granting any license. It may have been done in record time to help us turn the corner but our system prevents them being cut.
In the meantime, especially for those of us under fifty, we need to be patient and I stand by what I said to the Prime Minister in the Commons again this week to help us get safely through to the Spring when the cavalry reaches us all.
While it is good that test (access to which is in a good place now) and trace (they’re very persistent) is working much better, I remain concerned about “isolate” where figures are still nowhere near good enough.
There is no point spending vast sums, and expounding great energy, to identify positive cases and trace their contacts if infectious people are not staying out of circulation.
Payments to support those isolating – alongside rapid daily testing - will help but if we’re to avoid the next ruinous cycle of lockdown and release before the vaccine truly saves us we need to see New York figures of isolation which are circa 90% compared to our 40%. And, yes, we the public have our share of responsibility for this.
Secondly, something completely different, because I have tried throughout this to bring constituents a flavour of the other things going on that deserve to be aired.
I have spoken in Parliament in recent weeks about our ongoing battle with breast cancer and the push to drive down smoking rates. They’re not necessarily connected but, as a former Cancer Minister, these are subjects I feel passionate about and hope I can add a little to the debate.
Also, I am loving my work on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and constituents may be interested to read about our inquiry on the economics of music streaming. This week we heard from Tom Gray (Gomez), Ed O’Brien (Radiohead), Guy Garvey (Elbow) and Nadine Shah on how music streaming has impacted the music industry and how the dominance of the major record labels has given rise to the #BrokenRecord campaign. Find out more www.stevebrine.com/DCMS
Steve Brine MP