Constituency matters… a weekly column by the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins 7 January 2022.
I would like to send my best wishes to all readers for the New Year. I’m sure we all want 2022 to be the year where we finally emerge from the pandemic and can live with and effectively manage any future variants of the covid virus.
Our scientists have now reached a consensus that the Omicron variant is milder than the previous Delta variant, however it has spread rapidly.
In Folkestone and Hythe, as of January 1st, the constituency had a 7-day average of 1,368 cases per 100,000 people; this equates to approximately 142 new cases each day. Nonetheless, we can clearly see evidence that cases of COVID-19 are falling locally and that hospitalisations due to the virus have remained flat at about one quarter of the level we experienced last winter. For this reason, I agree with the government’s decision to extend ‘Plan B’ measures for a further three weeks.
This precaution, if used wisely, will enable us to solidify our collective wall of defence against the virus and ensure that the NHS does not become overwhelmed by pressures caused by hospitalisations and the need for staff to self-isolate, taking them away from their vital frontline duties.
With more than 34 million people across the UK boosted, I am proud to say that the vaccination effort in Folkestone and Hythe is performing better than the national average and it is the most successful in Kent. More than 90% of those over 60 have received their third vaccine dose, as have 64% of the local population aged 12 and above. I am grateful to Dr Nguyen and his team at Channel Health Alliance who manage the Folca vaccination centre in Folkestone, and the 700 local Rotary volunteers, led by Joe Sullivan, who have collectively volunteered around 21,000 hours so far to help constituents get vaccinated.
I am also pleased to say that there is good news for the travel industry. Following the Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday, the government took the measured step to simplify international travel. This means that if you travel abroad, you will no longer be required to take a pre-departure test and, upon your return, if you are fully vaccinated, there is no need to self-isolate until your PCR results are received. Instead, all travellers will need to take a lateral flow test no later than the second day of arrival. As I have said before, we need to learn to live with the virus, and this practical move will relieve pressure on the travel industry and, I hope, be the first step in getting our economy firing on all cylinders once again.
Finally, my annual Folkestone Apprenticeship & Jobs Fair will be taking place on Friday 21st January between 10am and 3pm at the Leas Cliff Hall. If you are looking for work, own a business in need of more staff, or know someone who may wish to come along, find the event on Eventbrite.com to sign up in advance, or contact my office at email@example.com for more details.