Bill Esterson MP reacted to the new national lockdown saying the tightening of restrictions was necessary to combat rising Covid-19 infections but that a swift rollout of the vaccine was now “essential”.
Schools and colleges in England have been forced to close except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
The third national lockdown across England will last until at least the middle of February, as the NHS risked being overwhelmed by rising admissions thought to be caused by a fast-spreading new variant of the virus.
Bill Esterson, MP for Sefton Central, said: “The prime minister was reluctant to announce further restrictions to combat the increase in infections across the country. It is right that he has changed his mind, albeit there are serious questions about the sudden U-turn from Sunday and even Monday morning when he said that schools should reopen. There really was no choice, including with the closure of all schools and colleges in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus and I’m glad to see that the prime minister has made the right decision and listened to the advice from health professionals, school staff, trade unions and the Labour Party”.
Last month the UK government announced that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine had received authorisation to be used as part of the vaccination programme. Following that, the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine also received approval. But there are concerns that the vaccine has been slow to be rolled out in Sefton, with just two boxes of 975 vaccines being received to give out to vulnerable residents before the turn of the year. More vaccines were expected to be delivered on January 8 when they will be offered to the most vulnerable in Formby, Ainsdale and Birkdale, and to some residents of care homes.
Mr Esterson said: “Unlike March last year we can start to see the emergence of a bit of light at the end of the tunnel as we now have the approval of both the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Oxford University/Astra Zeneca vaccine, but going forward all efforts and focus must be on ensuring that the Covid-19 vaccine is rolled out to as many people as possible and as quickly as possible. I have received huge amounts of correspondence from constituents who want to know why they or their elderly relatives have not received the vaccine yet. A swift rollout of the vaccine is essential and I have urged the government to be clear with our local health teams and the public about just how many vaccines will be delivered and when. Let’s hope the government’s promise of two million vaccines a week can actually be delivered.
"Getting vulnerable people, healthcare workers and teachers vaccinated quickly is key to getting our schools reopened as soon as possible. The prime minister has often spoken about the need to ‘level up’ and ensure that no one is left behind, but the reality is that every day a child or young person misses out on learning has a serious impact on their education and development and ultimately their future life chances.
"This is especially the situation for children and young people from poorer backgrounds and it’s vital that the government ensures that every child and young person has the necessary provisions in place to be able to fully engage in learning. The government needs to make sure that all children have access to a device on which to do school work at home.”
In March last year, Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the government would do “whatever it takes" to support households and businesses in the UK to cushion the impact of Covid-19 but around three million workers in the UK have been excluded from financial support.
Mr Esterson said: “By the time the current restrictions end it will be close to a year that three million people will have had no financial support. The latest financial package that has been announced by the Chancellor for hospitality is welcome but there are still too many gaps. We need to make sure workers and businesses are supported while workplaces are unable to open, and that people are supported financially to isolate when they need to, to stop the spread of this virus.”