June 2021 Newsletter from John Howell MP for Henley

I know from mail received that many of you were hoping to see all COVID restrictions removed this month and will be disappointed that the date has been pushed back to 19th July. In recent weeks there has been growing unease at lifting all restrictions on the proposed June date. The Delta variant is a serious concern and the advice from experts was that we should wait a little longer until the vaccine has been offered to all adults. Whilst I am amongst those very much looking forward to all restrictions being removed there is some sense in waiting just a little longer. Looking at the situation in Oxfordshire, while cases may have gone up 6-fold, the numbers of hospitalisations and deaths have not. This shows the importance of vaccination. There is also an inherent fairness that every adult should be offered the opportunity of vaccination before all restrictions are lifted. We have to remember that when the Prime Minister announced the Roadmap to Recovery the dates were the earliest at which each stage would be introduced and not finite dates. I am very much aware that some people have made plans in hope that the easing of restrictions would be in line with the earliest dates. I know that there has been particular concern over weddings and civil partnerships will help and trust that the easing of restrictions in relation to these will help.

As the holiday season approaches, I also understand the frustrations with international travel. In addition to those who need to be able to move around more freely for work purposes or to see family, after a year of restrictions I fully appreciate the need some people feel for a change of scenery and the desire to go abroad. The travel industry is also in much need of customers returning. Indeed, there are several sectors of the economy that are desperate to be fully open. However, we must take the long view, get everyone vaccinated and do all we can to avoid restrictions having to be imposed again later in the year.

The vaccination programme has been truly amazing, and I am delighted that everyone over the age of 18 is now eligible. It is encouraging to see news items of young people queueing to take up the offer. I am thankful to everyone who has been involved from the researchers who have pulled together to get us where we are and to all who have worked to deploy the vaccine. I really do encourage anyone who is
eligible for the vaccine to take the opportunity. As news reports currently indicate most of those now suffering serious symptoms from COVID-19 have not been fully vaccinated, some having refused.

As we carefully and cautiously continue our journey out of lockdown, we must be mindful that the coronavirus outbreak continues to affect all of us, but especially unpaid carers, who have been supporting relatives, friends and loved ones who may be disabled, ill or elderly. Carers must be recognised for the difficulties they are experiencing, respected for all they are doing, and provided with information and support to keep themselves – and those around them – safe and well. Yet, a lack of awareness of carers and the physical and mental cost of caring persists.

Our focus throughout the pandemic has been to support all unpaid carers, including young carers, who have the added pressures of work, schooling and their own health and wellbeing issues to manage. This has included making carers a priority group for Covid-19 testing and vaccination and asking local authorities to identify unpaid carers and support them. We have provided funding to Carers Trust to support unpaid carers experiencing loneliness during the pandemic and to Carers UK’s helplines, information and support services. Carers make an incredible contribution to the life of this country. Together, we must support their wellbeing, help them achieve their life goals and create more carer friendly communities – making caring more visible and valued. Supporting our carers supports us all – thank you.

Although I have been going to the Westminster office at present my team continues to work remotely and email remains the quickest form of communication. If you have an issue that you would like to raise with me, if possible, please email me at john.howell.mp@parliament.uk. If you cannot email you can still write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1 0AA or PO Box 84, Watlington, OX49 5XD. Please be aware that remote working means that it is taking longer for mail to get through to me.

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