York Press column: Another Step on the Road to Normality
September 22, 2021
With schools and Parliament having already returned to a level of normality not seen for eighteen months, the latest update to international travel restrictions is another significant step as we emerge from the pandemic.
Having work with local businesses in the travel sector over the past year and repeatedly lobbied Ministers on the issue, I know a simplification of the travel lists and testing requirements is exactly what is needed to give people the confidence to book holidays.
From October 4, the amber travel list will be merged with the green list to create a simple two list system of countries you can travel to without the need for quarantine on your return and countries where you will have to quarantine upon your return. This means that under the current listings that passengers returning from anywhere in Europe and most major holiday destinations would not have to quarantine. Furthermore, anyone who’s fully vaccinated will no longer have to take a PCR test before travelling back from a green list country and from October day 2 PCR tests will be replaced with cheaper lateral flow tests.
Coupled with the news announced this week that the United States will welcome fully vaccinated travellers from the UK from November, many of the major barriers stifling the travel sector’s recovery have been removed and demand from consumers is returning to pre-pandemic levels. This couldn’t come soon enough for the businesses I have spoken to and like for every sector I truly hope the worst is behind us.
A further sign of progress is the indication that the Government will surrender certain emergency powers if they proceed to renew the Coronavirus Act. These include powers to close-down sectors of the economy, such as business premises, or apply restrictions to events and gatherings as well as powers that disrupt education, enabling temporary closure or restricting access to schools, colleges, and childcare. This reassertion of parliamentary sovereignty is a welcome return to pre-pandemic oversight. Perhaps more telling that the pandemic is slowly being put behind us is that more and more parliamentary time is now being dedicated to non-coronavirus matters, enabling the Government to deliver on manifesto promises that I stood for election on two years ago. One of major issue that has begun to be addressed is social care reform.
I know how concerning the current social care system is to many York residents making provision for loved ones, and therefore think the Government deserve credit for squarely addressing the issue at last, even at the risk of unpopularity.
On the surface, there are many good points to the Government’s outline plans for a new social care funding system for York Outer. Current estimates show that 1-in-7 65-year olds will face lifetime care costs of over £100,000, which is especially damaging for our constituency, where nearly a quarter of the population is already over 65. Under the current system, someone unlucky enough to need care because of an unexpected condition like Alzheimer’s faces having their lifetime savings wiped out by care costs, with anyone with assets over £23,250 currently required to pay for their care in full.
However, while I support the broad principles and intentions behind the Government’s plan for a reformed social care system funded by a new 1.25% Health and Social Care Levy based on a National Insurance rise, I still have some serious questions about how this will work in practice which is why I have abstained on votes on the issue so far. I am particularly aware that a rise in National Insurance would be a departure from another manifesto pledge, although I concede that this was before the damage inflicted on the public finances by the coronavirus pandemic.
The issue has not concluded though and I am glad to see Ministers commit to a consultation on this in October, and I would invite all York Outer constituents to share their feedback and any relevant experiences of the current system with me, so I can best represent our community as this long-awaited reform proceeds. We can no longer avoid addressing social care reform but it is crucial we get it right to ensure support is there for generations to come.