Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:21 pm on 12th January 2021.

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Photo of Paul Bristow Paul Bristow Conservative, Peterborough 4:21 pm, 12th January 2021

Like my hon. Friend Steve Brine, I want to focus my remarks on what happens when we have vaccinated the most vulnerable.

Before I do so, I want to make a case for one particular industry and profession that has been very hard hit by lockdown: the private hire and taxi industry. At the weekend I spoke at a virtual meeting to Mr Imran and Mr Jamil of the Peterborough Private Hire Association. They told me that many taxi drivers in the city have seen their incomes drop dramatically as a result of lockdown to just a fraction of what they were before the pandemic. People are rightly staying at home, but self-employed taxi drivers cannot stop working, because they have to take patients to hospitals and key workers to work. They are not classed as key workers, even though they have to work. There is no school run, there is no night-time economy, and people are not going to work in big numbers. I have written to Peterborough City Council asking if it will use the additional revenue grant to support them during this third lockdown.

This third lockdown can only really be justified by a need to pause things to buy time in order to carry out the vaccination programme, so that there is an end—a proper end—to this crisis and things can open up again. I hear the arguments that vaccinating the elderly and the most vulnerable will not necessarily end this crisis. No one is doubting the scale of the challenges that our NHS faces, particularly in our hospitals, but we must be able to discuss what life looks like with a vaccinated population, and if and when we can get to the point where covid-19 can be treated in the same way as flu.

The Government have confirmed that over 88% of covid fatalities are from the top four groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation —the very people we need to have been vaccinated by the middle of February—so it is at this point that we need to begin to try to lift these restrictions and, as I say, talk about what life may look like after we have a vaccinated population. As the Minister said, some people have been through hell and back, but we have to look at what life looks like post vaccination. The end is near; we are nearly there. So let us start talking. Let us not prolong lockdown any longer than is necessary. Let us open up the economy so that we can begin to raise taxes to pay for our NHS and the vital public services that we have relied on.