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Omicron Covid-19 variant: North West Norfolk MP James Wild says it's time to get booster vaccine

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It is time to get boosted. When the Omicron variant was first identified I wrote about the uncertainty surrounding it.

Well, we now know that it is very infectious with rates doubling every two days – compared to seven for the Delta variant. We also know that having two jabs provides lower levels of protection against infection from Omicron compared to Delta but that a booster jab provides around 70 per cent protection against symptoms.

That is why the Prime Minister announced on Sunday night the ambition to offer every eligible adult their booster before the New Year – rather than the end of January as was planned.

Covid-19 Omicron variant.
Covid-19 Omicron variant.

This ramping up of the programme is undoubtedly a significant challenge. Across Norfolk and Waveney, it will require 180,000 boosters every week up from 56,000 last week – the busiest so far.

It will place considerable demands on NHS staff, vaccinators, and volunteers who have already done so much to help deliver 121 million jabs in 12 months.

Staff are being redeployed which will have an impact on routine care during this period. We owe everyone involved huge gratitude for their incredible efforts. If you can volunteer as a steward or other roles then please help.

Along with stepping up the booster programme, MPs this week voted to introduce new temporary measures in a bid to help slow the spread while more data on vaccine efficacy and disease severity is assessed.

Those Plan B measures are advice to work from home if you can, wearing a face covering in most indoor settings, and showing a recent negative test result or being double vaccinated to attend nightclubs or large-scale events. Face coverings are not needed in pubs, restaurants, or other hospitality settings.

There has been coverage about what some have dubbed “vaccine passports”. When Plan B was set out in September it did propose making mandatory vaccine-only certification a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather. That would have been a vaccine passport. I was not comfortable with that and pressed ministers to allow a negative lateral flow test result as an alternative. I take such tests regularly ahead of coming into Parliament, visiting schools, or for other constituency events. That’s the responsible thing to do to reduce the risk of transmission.

So I welcome that the government listened to those concerns. Anyone who doesn’t want to show their double vaccinated status can simply show a negative test. Is this an unacceptable restriction on our liberty? In my judgement given the current circumstances it is a reasonable step. Indeed, the requirement is less restrictive than some major events already require. And it isn’t a Covid passport.

I had to decide whether it was better to support reasonable, time-limited measures in the face of this rapidly spreading new variant, or to do nothing and wait and see how it unfolds. Having listened to constituents, experts, and considered this carefully, my judgement given the uncertainty and balance of risks was to back proportionate measures which end on January 26. Even with Plan B we will have far fewer restrictions than most of Europe.

Get boosted now.

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