Pop-up vaccine centres in Ipswich will help booster jab campaign

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There is a huge effort to get people boosted before the end of the year - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Just when it looked like we might be able to enjoy a relatively normal Christmas, Covid has yet another trick up its sleeve.

There is still a lot we don’t know about the Omicron strain of Covid but what we do know should be enough to make us very concerned. Huge numbers of people are currently being infected with Omicron – more people are testing positive that in any other Covid wave.

Everyone who tests positive must self-isolate, and many will not be able to work. This will affect the ability of organisations to function normally and will hit the economy.

A proportion of people infected will need to be admitted to hospital and some of them will sadly die.

This proportion varies depending on the Covid strain and whether you’re vaccinated and boosted. We don’t know if the proportion for Omicron is more, less, or the same as Delta – but there is no strain that doesn’t cause some hospitalisations and deaths, there is no vaccine that is 100% effective, and there are still many people not fully vaccinated.

This is going to put a huge strain on the already under pressure NHS with fewer staff due to self-isolation trying to deal with an increased number of patients.

The one thing we do know is that the best chance for an individual to avoid infection, hospitalisation or death is to be tripled-jabbed.

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The Government has set the NHS an extremely tough target, with very short notice, to ensure all adults receive a booster jab before the end of the year.

This will require at least a doubling in the number of boosters being delivered every day. To have any hope of achieving this will require all parts of the public and voluntary sectors to work together.

Councils are doing their part to help the NHS on this mammoth undertaking.

Ipswich Borough Council has already provided Gainsborough Sports Centre as a vaccination centre and its capacity has been increased. We’ve also made Whitton Sports Centre and Portman House at the corner of Portman Road and Princes Street available for pop-up vaccination centres as well as redeploying staff to help run them.

Other district councils across Suffolk are doing the same. Suffolk County Council is running a free “vaxi-taxi” service for people without transport to get them to vaccination centres.

All the local information you need is available online at: sneevaccine.org.uk

Please get boosted now!

Businesses need financial support from Government
To slow down the spread of Omicron while boosters are being delivered, the Government has introduced new “Plan B” measures and recommended that we reduce household mixing to a minimum.

These are vital measures – and may need to be strengthened – but even though they are far short of a compulsory lockdown, they are already having a devastating impact on many businesses. Customers are staying away from pubs, restaurants are facing a wave of cancellations, shops are seeing a drop in trade as people move back to online shopping.

For many of these businesses, the increased trade they usually get at Christmas is what enables them to carry on throughout the rest of the year.

Without extra financial support from the Government, we are going to see a huge wave of business closures in the new year. Yet, at the time of writing, no additional support has been announced. 

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seems to have been caught completely on the hop enjoying a jolly trip to California instead of meeting business and union leaders to thrash out a support package.

That package should be as comprehensive as the support offered in previous waves, including a temporary reintroduction of furlough and the Covid statutory sick pay scheme, and the extension of VAT and business rate relief.

The Additional Restrictions Grant, administered by councils, should also be topped up so we can help those businesses who fall through the cracks of national support schemes.

All our MPs should be lobbying the Government hard to introduce these measures this week.

Wishing all readers the very Happiest Christmas possible and a safe, Covid-free New Year.

- David Ellesmere in the Labour leader of Ipswich Borough Council