MP column: Don't look forward in angerMP Stella Creasy asks residents not to let recent scandals change how they deal with the new variant
It is traditional at this time of year to reflect on the past twelve months and plan for the next. In early December that would not have been difficult; restrictions had been lifted, we were able to go to pubs, clubs and theatres and many of us had plans for a longed-for family Christmas. Yet the arrival of Omicron threatened not only our celebrations, but our future.
Covid has overturned everything we took for granted. Being able to nip to the shops, hug a friend or just sit down in a free seat on the tube without checking the people nearby have masks on became distant memories. Even with restrictions lifted, we have become accustomed to being segregated from neighbours, meeting new colleagues online or having birthdays and weddings at a distance. For many, unemployment, insecurity and uncertainty has dominated life, as their jobs and industries changed beyond all recognition.
Over the last two years NHS staff have worked tirelessly to treat those with the virus and address the extra pressure on healthcare services. Exhausted, they yet again face a winter where the virus threatens us all. Whilst the last two years have shown the power of the vaccine to prevent transmission and new drugs offer fresh hope in treating those affected, the virus has also shown it can mutate, with new infections now increasing at a meteoric rate.
Many locals wrote to me last month furious at revelations about parties at Downing Street. They recognise these undermine willingness to follow restrictions designed to slow the spread of the virus. I understand this anger and urge residents not to let this define how you respond to Omicron. Whether catching up on first or second jabs or ensuring you have your booster, all of us can help with reducing infections and the impact of Covid on our NHS by getting vaccinated.
I have been proud to work with local faith groups, volunteers, council staff and the NHS to encourage people to do this - it must be a positive decision each of us make rather than something anyone is forced to do. That’s why I do not support mandatory vaccination, and why together we need to address the concerns some have about being vaccinated as part of challenging those who spread myths and misinformation about coronavirus. I have also called for tough measures against those who picket schools or vaccine centres. It is not a question of free speech to harass young children or obstruct residents from making their own choices on this matter.
I want to thank every member of NHS and council staff, as well as all the volunteers who have achieved something monumental this year in getting so many vaccinated in our community. Walthamstow has a proud tradition of community activism - as we look to 2022, yet again each of us can play our part in fighting this awful virus to help ourselves and each other.
This is the first in a series of columns from Waltham Forest's local MPs, appearing exclusively in the Echo