It feels like there is now light at the end of the tunnel, as we all emerge from what we hope is the last national lockdown. The ability to meet friends and family in outdoor spaces over Easter will have been a huge milestone for many people, and we all look forward to many shops and businesses re-opening next week.
As everyone is desperate to get back to normality, there is a debate raging over the merit of “vaccine passports”. Whilst it is inevitable that some form of vaccine passport will be required for international travel, I have grave concerns about the practical and ethical considerations, as well as the efficacy of such digital Covid ID cards for domestic use to access services and activities.
Many people can’t receive a vaccine for medical reasons or because they’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and none of the vaccines are yet approved for use in adolescents. Many businesses are concerned about the cost and pressure on their staff of administering a vaccine passport to allow entry. We should not put staff in pubs in a position where they need to refuse entry to a family who want Sunday lunch just because they have teenage children.
Vaccine passports will likely provide a false sense of security (the vaccine does not completely eliminate transmission of the virus) and reduce adherence to other important public health measures like hand hygiene and social distancing. Government’s focus should instead be on ensuring a properly functioning system to test and trace every new case and support isolation. Too few people are self-isolating who should be. I will oppose proposals for a domestic vaccine passport or Covid ID card.
I spoke about this issue and more on BBC Politics Live:
Latest Covid Numbers
In the most recent full week where numbers are available from 20th – 26th March, there were 59 cases of coronavirus in Richmond upon Thames. This continues the slow fall in number seen over the past month. The incidence rate in Richmond is 29.8/100,000, compared to a London-wide incidence of 37.0/100,000 and England-wide rate of 54.9/100,000.
Data source: https://www.datarich.info/covid-19/
Book a lateral flow test
All residents in the borough are now eligible to book a free rapid COVID-19 test in Twickenham, Hampton & East Sheen. Book now: www.richmond.gov.uk/book_lateral_flow_test
The test is for people NOT experiencing symptoms. If you have any of the main Covid-19 symptoms you should arrange a PCR test here: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
Cancer test and treatment backlog
One of the many worrying impacts of the pandemic on our health system has been the delays caused to cancer diagnoses and treatments. If you’ve noticed something that’s unusual for your body or isn’t going away, speak to your doctor. Even if it takes time to get an appointment, keep trying, and make it clear if you are worried about cancer in particular.
Funding for good causes from the People’s Postcode Lottery
Up to £20,000 of grant funding is available for local charities through the Postcode Society Trust. I encourage our local charities to check if they are eligible.
There is also up to £500 per school available through the Learning Through Landscapes fund which aims to get children engaged with the outdoors and natural world through nature-based projects. More information here:
Cash grants are still available for local people!
Local families and individuals who are struggling financially due to the impact of COVID-19 and need help and support accessing food, paying for school uniforms, energy bills or other household essentials, can still come forward to apply for financial help!
Get help here:
Local meetings, events and news
Richmond Chamber of Commerce – Budget briefing
I led an MPs’ budget briefing and business listening event, hosted by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. I outlined how the budget was a missed opportunity to support local business, address the injustice of 3 million people excluded from support, and kickstart the post-Covid recovery. It was also great to hear some positive news stories from local businesses.
Read more here:
Met with school governors and pledged to fight for local schools in Covid funding crisis
I met with the chairs of school governors from many schools across the borough which are struggling with the double-whammy of the costs of making their sites Covid-secure and the lost income from lettings and fundraising. As several local schools fall into deficit, it is time for the Government to step up with dedicated funding.
Read more about the challenges faced by our schools here:
Register to Vote!
The Mayor of London and London Assembly elections and the Hampton Wick ward by-election are on Thursday 6 May 2021. The deadline is looming for people to register to vote and apply for their postal vote. The last chance to register is in three weeks on Monday 19 April.
For more information about the electoral process and how to register to vote or apply for a postal or proxy vote please visit www.richmond.gov.uk/elections
April is Stress Awareness Month
Now more than every we need to be aware of the impact of stress on our mental and physical wellbeing. The guest on this week’s Talk Richmond podcast was Jason Moore – a local trainer for wellbeing and Governor for Wellbeing at the Queen’s School, Kew. Talk Richmond is a fortnightly podcast that discusses topics of interest in the borough.
If you are concerned about stress, anxiety or low mood, speak to your GP. Additionally, Good Thinking is a digital, free mental wellbeing service provided by Thrive London, Public Health England and the NHS.
Design a stamp competition to honour heroes of the pandemic!
Royal Mail is inviting children aged 4 to 14, to design one of eight special stamps which will honour key workers and others, who have done great things since the start of the pandemic to help the country through a very challenging period.
Visit Royal Mail Stamp Competition to sign-up for one of 6,000 resource packs available. The competition is open now, and you have until 28th May to submit their entries. Good luck everyone!
Over the last couple of weeks, I have met with:
- The Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer at Kingston Hospital. The Covid situation is much more stable there with approximately 15-20 Covid patients in the hospital and attention turning to tackling the backlog of care that has been delayed due to the pandemic. I was pleased to hear that, despite the pressures, the hospital was able to keep priority cancer services running through the recent peak. They are also now working on building up much needed diagnostic capacity.
- Teddington and Hampton Rotary Club
Standing up for you
Any Questions? On BBC Radio 4
I joined Chris Mason on BBC Radio 4 Any Questions? on Good Friday to discuss the key political events of the week. There were questions from people across the country on topics which ranged from vaccine passports, to care home visits, from the recent race relations report to internet censorship.
You can listen to my responses below or listen to the programme in full here:
Rejecting the Coronavirus Act and calling for fairer Covid rules
In the House of Commons, I voted against the renewal of the Coronavirus Act. Many of the far reaching powers in this legislation rushed through at the start of the pandemic have proved completely unnecessary, with 250 people incorrectly charged under the Act. Sadly there is a need for continued restrictions to limit spread of the virus but it’s critical the Government restores as many of our freedoms as soon as possible.
Whilst we do need more robust public health measures at our borders to prevent new variants arriving and putting our hard-won progress against the virus at risk, I also spoke out against criminalising international travel. The new legislation Parliament was asked to approve allows second homeowners to check on overseas properties but prevents loved ones from coming together. I again highlighted how helping people to self-isolate with both financial and practical support is key to breaking chains of transmission.
Read more details here:
Join my campaign for better air quality
In 2005 the World Health Organization (WHO) put air quality guidelines in place. Over 15 years later, they are still not UK law, causing serious health problems. I’m campaigning for the Government to put stricter rules in place for the sake of our community.
Join my call here: