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Julian Sturdy - Strong Voice for York Outer

Julian Sturdy

Member of Parliament for York Outer

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Government announcement on ending covid restrictions

Government announcement on ending covid restrictions

“Given the amazing success of the booster programme in protecting York households, and the latest encouraging virus data, I am glad the government has decided to let current ‘Plan B’ measures expire at the end of this month. Although I have serious concerns about the Prime Minister’s judgement on other matters, I think he has

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Statement on alleged Downing Street Parties

The recent revelations about the party in the garden of Number 10 on the...

My votes on Plan B coronavirus measures

December 14, 2021

This evening, I voted against Government proposals for ‘vaccine passports’ for some venues and against mandating vaccination for frontline health workers, but reluctantly supported Ministers on reintroducing compulsory indoor mask wearing.

I believe this strikes the right balance between addressing the omicron infection wave, the precise effect of which remains uncertain at this stage, and opposing the imposition of unacceptable controls on the public, which have already damaged everyday life for far too long.

I cannot simply accept ‘Plan B’ measures in full, as I have big reservations about getting into a stop-start state of emergency every time the virus mutates. Returning to restrictions will have a chilling effect on our city’s economic recovery, threatening local livelihoods when we can least afford it. I also don’t want residents to live in a permanent climate of fear, and think we need to shift towards living safely with the virus, rather than constantly curtailing everyday life.

Omicron is unquestionably a serious challenge, because of its apparent potential to be more infectious that previous coronavirus variants, meaning it can still have a major impact even if it produces milder illness. Therefore, ugly restraint as they are, I accept the Government’s case for compulsory face coverings in indoor settings as this represents a proportionate response to the infection wave that keeps premises open safely. Crucially, hospitality is exempted, offering important respite for York venues needing to trade normally during a damaged Christmas season.

I also support the Government’s plan to address omicron mainly through ramping up the booster programme, offering one to all adults before the end of 2021, rather than through a knee-jerk shift towards renewed lockdown. I will be having my own booster this week, and welcome local plans to speed up York’s vaccination effort, with the Askham Bar centre aiming for 10,000 injections a day, lengthening vaccination site open hours and opening 4 new additional vaccine clinics across the city.

However, I will not support vaccine passports/ compulsory covid test results for large events and nightclubs, as they will divide society and reduce trust in the Government virus response. I have consistently opposed any move to vaccine passports, and signed a public declaration to resist them earlier this year, because I fear this as a discriminatory step that could exclude people from participating fully in everyday life. A legal requirement to show health information or lose access to amenities would set our society on an authoritarian course, as if allowed in this context their use could easily be widened.

I also voted against mandatory vaccination for frontline NHS workers by April 2022, having carefully considered the arguments and available facts. Given over 90% of frontline health service staff are already vaccinated, it strikes me as unnecessary to take the very questionable step of compulsory medication, which sets a dangerous precedent. I am also alarmed by predictions over 70,000 NHS staff may leave rather than accept this, an exodus we simply cannot afford with the NHS facing the twin challenges of omicron and standard winter pressures.

Fundamentally, I think we need to beat omicron by rapidly strengthening our national vaccine shield, building on the amazing success of the British vaccine and our national vaccination programme, which this year saved over 120,000 lives and prevented 24 million infections. I will support the Government where they focus on boosters and proportionate measures, but oppose further draconian regulations.