Opinion: ‘We’re moving towards the end now’

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

Saturday, 26th June 2021, 2:00 pm
The vaccination programme continues.

Our vaccine programme is working. The figures suggest that we have broken the link between 
cases and hospitalisation.

There are also record lows in the proportion of cases that end in deaths within three weeks.

The University of East Anglia has excellent links with Peterborough As the UEA’s Professor Paul Hunter notes: “Hospitalisations per case have plummeted. Vaccination is stopping severe disease. We don’t know vaccine protectiveness against the Delta variant for severe disease, but vaccines do protect more against severe disease.”

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It was uncertainty about the variant that made the Prime Minister pause the relaxations due on June 21. I’m hopeful that we will unlock next month.

At each stage, the vaccines have been more effective than the assumptions made about them in various models. If this proves to hold for the Delta variant, we should assume it will hold for the ‘Delta-plus’ version and all the other inevitable permutations that will come our way.

Caution is appropriate, foot-dragging is not, because people’s jobs and businesses are at stake.

We can’t suspend our basic freedoms for any longer than is necessary. No government in these isles, with our proud history and collective inheritance, can retain these powers without an urgent, ongoing need.

The UK has a world-leading vaccination programme. That should mean getting back to normal before other countries, not behind them. Our economy is beginning to roar again, but we have a lot of ground to make up and a lot of new debt to manage.

We need to get on with it.

This isn’t just about jobs and finances, there are also implications for our health.

On Wednesday, I chaired the launch of a new report from 10 charities and organisations, which was co-ordinated by the Alzheimer’s Society.

Sadly, repeated lockdowns, social isolation and the suspension or closure of rehabilitative services have left their mark.

People’s pre-existing, long-term health conditions have deteriorated at a much quicker pace. For example, 82% of people with dementia have noticed their condition get worse.

At the start of the pandemic, rehabilitation professionals were rightly deployed to acute services to help fight the virus. But this inevitably meant that rehabilitation services suffered.

It has been an immensely challenging time for the patients who lost out, as I know from the moving testimony that I’ve heard at the Health and Social Care Select Committee.

Without the right rehabilitation, people can’t manage their conditions. They can’t slow, prevent or even reverse their deterioration. They can’t get back to some normality, or even, where possible, get back to work.

This not only has a huge impact on their quality of life, but also a direct impact on their families and an indirect impact on everyone else. Without rehabilitation, these people will need more long-term support.

The NHS started well with ‘Your Covid Recovery’– a targeted resource for people suffering from the effects of long Covid. Now we need a broader rehabilitation strategy, with a national clinical lead.

I think the report got the emphasis absolutely right. Its title sums up what we need to do as a country, in so many ways, as we each yearn for own normal.

It’s called ‘Moving Forward Stronger’. We can and must.