Opinion: ‘It’s time for Peterborough and the country to get our confidence back’

Peterborough’s MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 26th February 2022, 2:15 pm
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Our country is the first in the world to move out of the pandemic. From this point, there is no legal requirement to self-isolate.

Half of the temporary provisions in Coronavirus Act have been removed.

Another 16 provisions go on March 24 – and the last four will expire six months later.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Although the virus has not gone away, our world-leading vaccination programme means the UK can safely lift restrictions.

The Omicron wave is passing and winter conditions will soon be over too.

The campaign to ‘Get Boosted Now’ worked.

Over 70 per cent of adults are now boosted, which includes an incredible 93 per cent of those aged 70 or over. This provides sufficient immunity to take the next steps.

We have also advanced enormously in our scientific understanding of the virus and development of new treatments. In fact, as with vaccination, we are leading the way on antivirals and new therapeutics.

The UK AntiVirals Task Force has secured a supply of almost five million doses, which is more per head than any other country in Europe. This gives us a new weapon to fight the virus and treat severe cases.

Moreover, there will be a Spring Booster for those over 75, our older care home residents and anyone over 12 who is immunosuppressed.

This has been a period of unprecedented restrictions on our basic freedoms. The law has extended further than in wartime. None of us has known anything comparable, except perhaps for those who lived under totalitarian regimes before coming to the UK.

Some people feared that the return of our freedoms would never happen. They had good reason for those fears, as others are opposed to giving them back. Just look at the Labour front bench.

But the Government has been true to its word. Instead of compulsory legal restrictions, we now return to personal responsibility.

And in weighing up this decision, let’s not forget the other side of the scales.

Restrictions have been terrible for people’s mental health. They have placed a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our wellbeing, and the life chances of our children.

It can be easy for those living in large houses, working from home in comfort and enjoying having their family around them, to miss the full implications of restrictions for others. For many, it has been gruelling.

Nor can the ongoing economic damage of restrictions be overlooked.

The UK was the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year, but we have only just reached pre-pandemic levels at an enormous cost in national borrowing.

This growth needs to continue and expand to the sectors hit worst by the pandemic, like hospitality and tourism.

Here in Peterborough, we need that confidence and certainty to get the benefit of all the investment headed our way.

I know some people will think we are taking a risk, but there are huge risks in not learning to live with covid.

Nor will we be any less vigilant in monitoring and responding to new variants.

The surveying done by the ONS will continue to track the virus, across regions and age groups, providing granular detail.

Any surges will be spotted and variants analysed, through our laboratory network. We aren’t removing hard-worn capabilities. We are responding to hard-won success.