As Omicron fears increase, SNP and Tory governments must work together to protect the NHS and the economy – Ian Murray MP
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant is worrying us all, and we must make the right decisions in the national interest.
These decisions are never easy as nobody wants to implement restrictions at any time, let alone at Christmas.
But we all have a duty to each other to follow the rules, get a booster vaccine and do what is in the best interests of our country and NHS.
Omicron infections are rocketing and whilst there are encouraging signs that it may not be as severe as previous strains, the numbers of people having to stay off work sick could be enough to topple the NHS at a time when it is already under extreme pressure. We must prevent that.
But the government must deliver. If we are to meet the Scottish government’s own target to vaccinate 80 per cent of over-18s by the end of the year, then we need to be vaccinating 75,000 people a day. The best day so far is just 54,000 of all vaccinations.
Top of our priorities must be improving access to the vaccine programme, increased clinics and greater use of mobile and drop-in vaccination centres. Bring in as much of the armed forces as possible and get people vaccinated in their communities.
Elderly and vulnerable hospital patients have been unable to get their booster vaccines, leaving them potentially vulnerable if Omicron spreads on wards, as we have seen it do during pervious peaks.
It beggars’ belief that the Scottish government are failing to vaccinate these hospital patients when they have pledged to offer everyone their booster by the end of the year. Remember the scandal at the start of the pandemic when elderly hospital patients were not getting tested but were sent to care homes.
We need a plan that gets to and exceeds 75,000 boosters a day and that means greater accessibility.
More also has to be done for those sectors hardest hit by the latest guidance. Again, hospitality businesses are hammered and need far greater support than what has been offered thus far.
The sector has said that the Scottish government guidance has prompted a surge of Christmas cancellations, and it simply not good enough that this has not been accompanied by a robust package of financial support.
As someone who used to own hospitality businesses before coming an MP, I know how important the festive period is for survival in the quieter months.
The industry has shown innovation and perseverance through the pandemic, but it needs immediate action to protect livelihoods.
This comes after a Scottish Budget that should have marked the start of an ambitious recovery plan.
Instead, people have been presented with a missed opportunity which fails to deliver the real recovery we need and represents another dossier of managed decline that the SNP and Green parties have been serving up for years.
Social-care workers, businesses, families and those on low incomes have all lost out as a result of this budget and with Christmas around the corner, people are feeling the pinch.
This will be a tough winter for the people of Scotland, so both our governments must work together in the national interest so we can protect our NHS, our economy and our national recovery.
Ian Murray is Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South