More than 100,000 people have now died from Covid-19 in Britain including over 2,000 people in Birmingham.
These figures, and the scale of grief they have caused, is incomprehensible. 100,000 is more than the entire population of the Edgbaston constituency. It is the capacity of Edgbaston Cricket Ground four times over.
My thoughts are with anyone who has lost a loved one to this horrendous virus. I am deeply sorry for your loss.
I would like to take this opportunity to again strongly urge everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they’re offered an appointment. We know that the vaccines are safe, and they are our best bet of life returning to something resembling normality later this year.
The news last night that a fourth vaccine called Novovax has shown 89% efficacy in UK trials offers some fresh hope that we now have the tools at our disposal to dig our way out of this mess. We are not nearly out of the woods, and must remain vigilant, but there is some cause for optimism even at this dark moment.
Finally, I strongly encourage anyone who is currently leaving home for any permitted reason on a regular basis to make sure that they are getting tested for Coronavirus every 3-4 days. This virus can spread asymptomatically, and it is important we do not take that for granted.
If you do not have symptoms and would like a test, a walk-in testing centre is being run at the Ultilita Area (formerly the NIA) entrance B, and no appointment is necessary.
If you have symptoms and think that you need to get tested for Covid-19, click here for more information.
This week, as part of Opposition Day, I joined with colleagues in the Labour party to call on the Prime Minister to scrap a planned 5% council tax rise. Under the Government’s proposals, households living in Band D in Edgbaston will face a rise of £71.65 to annual council tax bills next year under plans set out in the Spending Review.
Back in December, the government promised that local authorities would have £2.2bn more money in 2021/22. However, 85% of that promised money was dependent on council’s increasing council tax and now Birmingham City Council faces a £100 million hole because of income lost during the pandemic and the additional costs of keeping communities safe from Covid-19.
Now, this council tax rise will hit families right at the very time millions are worried about the future of their jobs and how they will get through the next few months.
On Monday, I voted to scrap the council tax rise, protect families’ incomes and help secure our economy.
With several vaccines with high efficacy rates already approved by regulators, we now have a roadmap for life getting back to something like normal. However, news of new more transmissible strains of Coronavirus mean governments must remain cautious and recognise that the more that this virus circulates, the more there is the possibility that it can mutate.
Quickly mutating strains have shown us why it is not only in our national but international interest to support lower-income countries who don’t have as strong health care systems as our wonderful NHS. Vaccine nationalism, where richer countries muscle their way to the front of the queue for vaccine doses, has meant many poorer countries won’t have wide access to a vaccine before April 2022 at the earliest.
We are rightly proud of our brilliant scientists who have worked with their international colleagues to create Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, putting us in a position where we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. The UK cannot and has not done it alone, and we should be supporting international efforts to ensure the global south does not become a basin for dangerous new variants. The quicker the virus is brought under control the sooner we can rebuild a brighter, better future, and minimise the impact on trade and the economy.
I wrote about vaccine nationalism this week for the Independent.
This week the Government set out their planned cuts to international aid. In the middle of a pandemic, and in a year when the UK is set to host the G7 summit and COP26, this tells our allies and detractors that Britain under Boris Johnson is no longer interested in fulfilling our moral or legal responsibilities.
While the Government has handed over millions of pounds of UK taxpayers' money to its friends during this global pandemic, they are now betraying the world’s poorest and signalling Britain’s retreat from the world stage.
Labour are committed to spending 0.7 per cent of GNI on aid to tackle global poverty and injustice and will oppose any attempt from this government to damage this country’s reputation.