Alicia Kearns – 2021 Speech on Covid-19 Restrictions

The speech made by Alicia Kearns, the Conservative MP for Rutland and Melton, in the House of Commons on 14 December 2021.

Although I fully support the Government’s determination to protect our communities, I seek clarity. Like most of us, I support evidence-based policy making and, in the absence of data, precautions, not restrictions. I will vote with the Government today on precautions. Face masks are about personal responsibility and a small step we can take to protect our communities. I support the NHS mandate—we need to keep our health workforce safe and not put those who are most vulnerable and for whom they care at risk. Testing over 10-day isolation—absolutely; testing is the most important thing we can we do and I support it. Boosters—absolutely; we need to get everyone boosted.

However, I find difficulty with vaccine passports for three main reasons. First, there is no evidence that passports reduce transmission. Yes, France and Scotland have seen some increase in the uptake of the vaccine but no reduction in transmission as a result. Secondly, we are currently saying that two jabs are not enough. Well, if we need a booster and that is so important, why is the vaccine passport based on two jabs? There is a contradiction there. I do not believe that covid passports would prevent lockdowns. I question their mechanics, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark). Someone who is self-declaring that they have had a negative test is asking someone to give them that declaration with no evidence that they have had a negative test, and then that is somehow meant to be some kind of increase in capacity. The bureaucratic mechanics required for the passports to work are not there, but neither are the bureaucratic mechanisms required for negative tests. That will come at great cost to us. We do not have the capacity to deliver the negative test aspect of the passport regime.

Secondly, on modelling of the severity of omicron, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has not even reported yet, so how can we be asked to decide on these measures today without the data? South Africa is not seeing the expected spike in deaths. Hospitalisation sits at about 30 per 1,000, compared with 101 per 1,000 for delta. Using the modelling on delta cannot be right because we know that this variant is not the same. There are currently 10 people in hospital with omicron, but are they in hospital because they have omicron or do they just happen to have it? We do not know the answers. Frankly, if omicron is that severe, we need more than the plan B measures proposed today.

My third reason for voting against covid passports is the fundamental unease they give me. We do not discriminate on a medical basis in this country, and we cannot. We are encouraging people to work from home, but pub trips or parties are permitted, when we know from the previous lockdowns that the problem was with home mixing. We have very high vaccination rates. We do not need these passports. I know that 96% of people in Rutland and Melton have had their first jab, 93% have had their second, and 47% have had their boosters. My constituents deserve to be thanked and recognised. They do not deserve to have to have passports imposed on them when they are taking up the vaccine like this. I thank the amazing vaccinators across Rutland and Melton, particularly the Rutland Lions Club.

We are constantly changing the rules. Businesses cannot keep up. These are not the circumstances they asked for. Then there are school closures. Since we announced the measures in plan B, schools across the country are talking about closing. That is not acceptable. Our children must be in school to learn and to be protected. Our children deserve more. We cannot have people going out to parties and pubs and children not in school. The Government must mandate for schools to remain open, not just say that that is the guidance.

My final plea is for help, because in Melton we do not have enough clinics for vaccinations, and this has been an issue for months. I plead with the Minister to make sure that we get more booster clinics in Melton.