Happy to back boosterism on jabs!
This week’s column starts with a call for some boosterism. Six million people have had their booster Covid vaccination jab so far. This is important to make sure the most vulnerable people maintain high levels of protection against Covid as we go into winter.
That will help ensure the NHS can cope with the normal pressures it faces at this time of year. Latest figures show there were 28 patients in QEH with Covid which is similar to the level a month ago.
Booster jabs are available according to the priority order for the first vaccination programme and can be given six months after the second jab. Please get yours because while the protection from vaccines is working very well it can fade over time.
You can book via NHS online or via 119. If you haven’t had your first or second jab then don’t worry – you can book online or attend a walk-in clinic.
Ahead of the launch of the international climate change talks in Glasgow at the weekend, Parliament has been considering the important Environment Bill and steps to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution.
I’m particularly focused on measures to protect our rivers and coastal waters and to tackle the damaging and unpleasant practice that sees sewage discharged into rivers when the pipe network is unable to cope with the volume of water.
This is a legacy of Victorian times in villages and towns where there is a pipe system that takes rainwater and sewage from homes in the same network.
Too much storm water inundating or infiltrating the pipe network can mean foul water has to be released into rivers rather than coming up into people’s homes. Regrettably both scenarios affected people in North West Norfolk in flooding earlier this year.
So we need a proper plan to fix this problem. To end outright these storm overflows is estimated to cost north of £5,000 per household and some estimates are as high as £25,000.
Through the Environment Bill we are legislating to tackle this issue. The Government will have to produce a detailed, costed plan by next September to reduce sewage discharges. Everyone will then have proper information on the cost and where the biggest impact can be achieved most quickly.
Rightly the water companies will have to do much more. First, they need to set out how storm overflows will be addressed.
They’ll have to monitor water quality upstream and downstream of sewage outflows.
The water regulator will be directed by government to ensure the companies take steps to significantly reduce storm overflows.
There was some debate over the right approach. MPs were subjected to inaccurate criticism and abusive messages for not supporting measures that didn’t have a plan to deliver, or pay for, them.
Instead, I met with the Environment Secretary to ensure the final Bill has the measures it needs.
I welcome that the direction to Ofwat will be strengthened with a new legal duty on water companies to reduce the impact of overflows.
This package will help deal with this pollution problem and protect Norfolk rivers and coast.