Proposed further coronavirus measures
December 9, 2021
Although I support proportionate measures to tackle rising omicron infections, I also have significant reservations about moving back towards restrictions, especially anything that divides the public by vaccination status.
I will have to look carefully at the detailed proposals before I decide the extent to which I can support the government in votes on this next week.
A big concern for me is the chilling effect on the economy and business confidence of activating these ‘Plan B’ restrictions and thereby discouraging normal work and social interaction, which I fear could risk jobs in York. Returning to ‘work from home’ guidance will hit our city’s battered hospitality and retail sectors hard by denying them yet again a normal Christmas season.
I therefore expect the government to stick to its commitment to review these new measures on 5th January, with expiry on 26th January, so there is no prolonged brake on our economic recovery from covid.
As one of 36 MPs who voted against omicron self-isolation requirements last month because government wanted this power for too long, I am at least glad to see Ministers have listened to my opposition, and introduced daily testing in place of isolation.
Although I view compulsory mask wearing as an ugly restraint, I am willing to grudgingly support the extension of this to all indoor public settings because hospitality is exempted, and this requirement seems a proportionate step to keep premises open safely.
However, if rather than having separate votes, the government try to bundle the indoor mask requirement with the proposals for ‘vaccine passports’ or compulsory covid test results for large events and nightclubs, I will vote against the whole package of measures.
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 divisive step that could exclude people from participating fully in society. A legal requirement to show health information or lose access to amenities would set our society on an authoritarian course, and I will vote to nip this in the bud next week.
Fundamentally, I feel we need to concentrate on strengthening our vaccine shield rather than resorting again to ordering the public about. New evidence from vaccine maker Pfizer suggests a third vaccine dose can be similarly effective against omicron as the first two injections were against the original virus strain, so I think ramping up the booster programme represents the best way to protect our community and ensure a safe and normal Christmas.