Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:31 pm on 12th January 2021.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 6:31 pm, 12th January 2021

I would like to make three brief points.

First, vaccination is undoubtedly a significant and great success story, and I thank all involved nationally and on the Island. On the Island we have vaccinated well over 10,000—probably about 12,000—people so far, so it is under way. Four sites are vaccinating at the moment: Carisbrooke, the Bay practice, Westridge, and doctors and nurses working out of the West Wight sports and community centre in Freshwater, as well as the hospital. I do however have a slight concern, on which I would be grateful to get a direct answer from the Minister—I have written to the Secretary of State and to the vaccine Minister, my hon. Friend Nadhim Zahawi. The vaccine hub at the Riverside centre in Newport is expected to be ready on 15 January; earlier today in a question I accidentally said 15 July; clearly, I meant 15 January, so it will be ready in about three days. We may not, however, receive the vaccines for it and the sign-off for at least 10 days, and potentially more, afterwards. We are therefore potentially missing out on vaccinating about 500 people per day, and over 10 days that is 5,000 people who could have had a first jab. With our rise in infection on the Island, our demographic profile, and our isolation and dependency on ferries and potentially helicopters, I am concerned that we are not high enough on the vaccine supply list—not for the four primary care networks, but for our vaccine centre. As I say, I have written to the Secretary of State about this, but it would be great to get an answer.

Secondly, may we have a medium-term outline of what lies ahead? Businesses need clarity; people, especially in the hospitality sector on the Island and the festival sector need to be able to plan and to know if they can reopen in April or May or later in the summer.

We know that, sadly, 50% of deaths are among the over-80s, and 88%, nearly 90%, of deaths are in the top four at-risk categories. If those good folks are all vaccinated on time, taking into account the three-week period afterwards that it takes for the vaccine to become live, by early March we should be clear of nearly 90% of deaths. That then raises the question of whether we will be coming out of lockdown at that point, or will the Government then say it is not about mortality but about prevalence of covid? We need clarity and a decision on this as soon as possible.

Finally, and related to that, the Isle of Wight is Britain’s festival island, and the Government need to think about support for festivals because they are planning already; their decisions are being made in the next few weeks and help for that sector would be gratefully received.