Christmas has always been a time to celebrate and come together with our family and friends, so to be looking at our second year where a new Covid-19 variant has put this in doubt is distressing.
Even though Boris Johnson’s Government is too beleaguered to make a decision and unable to act in the public interest in response to the threat of Omicron, most of us – just like the first, second and third time around – have taken matters into our own hands and modified our behaviour, cancelling unnecessary social contact.
It’s taken the Chancellor Rishi Sunak over a week to respond to the resulting impact on business which obviously should have been announced alongside the Plan B measures.
But yesterday (Tuesday), he’s eventually responded to Labour’s demands for a support package.
As we await any guidance from the Government on social interaction, I know many of us are using all the tools at our disposal to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe.
The significant difference from last year is the miracle of the vaccines and the widely available, free testing kits.
Combining the use of these just before meeting people outside our household with careful use of face coverings, hand washing and ventilation gives us an effective defence against infection spread.
But only if we use them.
Those at highest risk from COVID-19, such as those people who are immunocompromised, cancer patients or those with Down’s syndrome, will also be able to access life-saving antiviral and antibody treatments Molnupiravir or Ronapreve at home after receiving a positive PCR test.
These are the reasons to be optimistic because there are now ways to meet our loved ones safely.
But, Omicron does not mean we can carry on without taking these and most likely stronger precautionary measures.
The indecisive Prime Minister is gambling on the variant only resulting in mild disease. There are some signs this “might” be the case, but by the time we know for certain, it will be too late to save lives if it’s not.
Even if infections prove to be mild for most, the sheer speed and scale of infection rates, means it could still overwhelm our already struggling NHS.
And of course, if hospitals are treating a surge of Omicron patients, it means other services will be disrupted.
With a 6 million waiting list for treatment already in our NHS, it’s concerning that the backlog will now grow even bigger.
GPs in Bedford and Kempston are also helping to deliver the Government’s ambitious vaccine booster programme and while they are still required to provide emergency same day services alongside the vaccine rollout, they may not be able to see patients for non-urgent reasons.
Top to bottom, the NHS is at full capacity. So, spare a thought for all our health and care workers who once again will step up and look after the sick and needy this Christmas away from their own families and friends.
The ongoing pandemic has been awful for everybody. And it’s difficult for all of us to face the prospect of making alternative plans.
But too many families have lost loved ones this year. So – let’s be kinder to each other, take precautions and give ourselves the best chance to be together with loved ones this Christmas.
Wherever you are and however you’re celebrating stay safe, have a very merry Christmas and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.
This is a monthly guest column provided by Mohammad Yasin MP (Labour Party).
It is published unedited and does not reflect the views of the Bedford Independent.