Worcester’s MP Robin Walker writes for the Observer..
WHILST the number of Covid infections has been falling locally, the national picture is more concerning.
London has now moved to a very high alert level, meaning 34 million people across the UK now face tier three level restrictions.
In Worcester which remains in tier two we are seeing the direct effect of people following advice and respecting Covid restrictions as rates fell to 71 per 100,000 of the population across Worcester, even lower than the Worcestershire average of 92 per 100,000.
Worcester residents have shown resolve in following sensible precautions whilst supporting our local businesses including the pubs and restaurants who are serving customers in a Covid secure way.
Unfortunately wet pubs (those which only sell drinks) remain closed as we continue to try to limit contacts and stop the spread of the virus.
I have been pressing for more support to keep them going. The government has offered wet pubs an additional payment of £1,000 to help them through the crisis and whilst I will keep pressing for more support, I hope this can help locals to be ready to reopen once we come down to tier one.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons this week that we are currently experiencing the spread of a new variant of the Covid virus. Whilst this is an additional concern there is no evidence to suggest the variant’s effects are different or that the vaccination currently being rolled out.
I am hopeful the rapid roll out of vaccines which has started in Worcester this week can help to bring restrictions to an end and ensure that all businesses can reopen in the new year. I am pleased that vaccinations have already started for staff at our hospitals and some of the most elderly and vulnerable people who are most at risk from the virus.
Despite the challenges, Worcester residents have come out of lockdown supporting their high street with enthusiasm, and continuing to do so is vital to ensure the future of vital local shops, pubs and restaurants we all love. On December 5 we celebrated the annual Small Business Saturday which highlights the importance of the local businesses that are the backbone of our economy.
Our high street was buzzing with activity, and Worcester residents showed that we can back local and shop responsibly at the same time. Worcester is blessed with some wonderful independent shops and I know that they have been going to great lengths to keep customers both satisfied and safe.
Whilst there have been tough moments in the negotiations I am pleased that agreement has been reached on the Northern Ireland Protocol which protects the U.K. customs territory and talks over a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU have resumed.
The Prime Minister allowed the talks to continue following progress made last week and he stated ‘where there is life there is hope’. I certainly hope for a deal that will respect the outcome of the 2016 referendum and the sovereignty of the U.K. while protecting jobs and livelihoods in Worcester.