Over the past year we have shown that vaccination is the key to beating COVID-19, and that it works. The UK was the first country in the world to administer a vaccine, we delivered the fastest roll-out in Europe, and we have begun the fastest booster campaign too, with over half a million jabs delivered yesterday alone. But our fight against Covid is sadly not over.
The Omicron variant is highly infectious, and the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers have now raised the COVID-19 Alert Level to 4, its second highest level. I am afraid the early evidence suggests that two doses of vaccine are not enough to give high levels of protection against infection. However, the good news is that our scientists believe that with a third dose – a booster dose – we can all bring our level of protection back up. So, we must act now.
This week the Government have launched the Omicron Emergency Boost programme, a national mission unlike anything we have done before in the vaccination roll out. As part of this everyone eligible aged 18 and over in England will have the chance to book their booster before the New Year, as long as they had their second dose of the vaccine at least three months ago.
Within our constituency, and at the time of writing, there are currently two walk-in centres where you can receive your vaccine: St Mary’s Church Hall, 1 London Road, Swanley. And Sevenoaks Pharmacy, 42 Dartford Road, Sevenoaks, TN13 3TQ. Please see my website for details of opening hours, as well as the GP surgeries who are providing the booster: https://www.lauratrott.org.uk/vaccine-update.
The staff and volunteers at Sevenoaks Pharmacy have been amazing, and are looking at extending hours. However, with the rollout expansion they are facing significant pressure. So, if you live in and around Sevenoaks, can I please urge you (if you can drive, or able to take the train) to book an appointment in Swanley through the national booking system https://www.nhs.uk/.../coro.../book-coronavirus-vaccination/. St Mary’s Church Hall have plenty of appointments and also accept walk-ins. Last Sunday they vaccinated almost 1,200 people – and now have up to 15 vaccination stations operating - with 10 more to come. By travelling to Swanley (if you can) you help those unable to travel there, therefore allowing them to be seen more easily in Sevenoaks.
I am also working hard with our local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to increase local capacity. And, as soon as I know more, I will update you through Facebook and my website.
My message to you all is clear: if you have not yet had a vaccine at all, then please get yourself at least some protection with a jab as quickly as possible; if you have already had your booster, encourage your friends and family to do the same. We all have a critical role to play in this national mission so get boosted now, so we can ensure we all keep our friends and loved ones safe over the festive period. If you encounter any issues do let me know. My team and I are here to help wherever possible.
Despite the challenges we face, there are many positive aspects to reflect on as we approach the festive season: the tremendous volunteering effort; the magnificent work of staff in our NHS and care sector who continue to do an incredible job keeping us and our loved ones safe; and the tireless efforts of all other essential workers who will all also be working over the holiday period, including local teachers, and teaching staff, and members of our Armed Forces.
So, let us also look forward with hope and ambition to the New Year. I will continue to do my utmost to ensure the voice of Sevenoaks is heard in Parliament, and to represent our communities at the highest level with energy, persistence, and determination.
Thank you for all your ongoing support and I wish you a wonderful, safe, and healthy Christmas and 2022.
MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley
Below is a snapshot of what we have been working on. If there is anything, I can do to support you, please get in touch.
- Yesterday I visited the vaccine centre in Swanley to thank everyone who has been working to get many of us boosted as soon as possible. As mentioned above, they are increasing the number of vaccinators they have from 15-25 and are doing over 1,000 vaccinations a day, so if you haven’t yet received your booster – or indeed your first two vaccines – please do book, or visit the walk in.
- To mark the start of December, I posted on my Facebook page encouraging local Christmas Markets to promote their upcoming events. Supporting our local businesses wherever possible is important so I encourage all to shop as local as possible. Ahead of Small Business Saturday, I also visited some of our brilliant local retailers to see how they were preparing. It was great to speak with: Rick Staplehurst at Harvey’s, Jason How at Rotosound, Chris at Foraged and Found and Greg Chester at The Fish Shop. We all know the impact that COVID-19 has had for local businesses over the last two years, and I applaud the resolve and determination they have shown in innovating and adapting to the challenges of the pandemic. If you are able, please do show your support this Saturday, and #shoplocal.
- I had the pleasure of judging the Riverhead Christmas window competition. So many shops have made such a great effort and whilst it was a tough decision the overall winner was Batchelors the butchers, with joint runners up being Day Lewis Chemists and Riverhead Library. My thanks to Riverhead Parish Council for organising the competition and particularly to Parish Councillors Chris Kennett, Irene Collins and Janice King for asking me to judge the competition and accompanying me on the day.
- I am delighted to announce that Ruby Casserley, Year 6 at Chevening St Botolph’s Church of England School is this year’s winner of my 2021 Christmas Card Competition. I received over 250 entries, and I was blown away by the fantastic designs which were submitted by children ranging from 4-11 years old. Thank you to all the pupils and schools for taking part.
- Further to my question to the Health Secretary at the start of the month, and letter to ministers, I am pleased to say that the NHS website has now been updated to ensure everyone over 12 can now ask for a vaccine status letter ahead of international travel. This is wonderful news and I know will be welcomed by many families across the constituency, many of whom have written to me. If you need to use this service, please visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-pass/get-your-covid-pass-letter/ and let me know if you have any further issues.
- I have received many emails over the last week from concerned parents about possible future school and nursery closures in light of the Omicron variant. I have therefore asked the Schools Minister for reassurance that whatever happens with the virus, he will not shut primary schools and nurseries. Children this young cannot learn online, and we have seen already the immense damage it has on their education and wellbeing. I hope his response provides some comfort to parents, and I welcome the Ministers kind words of the excellent work underway at Dunton Green Primary School, which he was kind enough to visit.
- I had the pleasure of meeting the UK Power Networks apprentices at their training centre in Sundridge. And, it was fantastic to talk to the next generation of electrical engineers who will be helping deliver Net Zero carbon emissions. I am so pleased the company’s regional technical training centre is based locally. It not only helps keep the power flowing to local homes and businesses - but is also providing local green skills and jobs needed for a zero-carbon future right here on our doorstep.
- I asked the Justice Minister for reassurance on behalf of women and girls across Sevenoaks and Swanley that our Nightingale Court will be supported after its funding runs out at the end of March 2022. Kent Crown Court caseload stands at 93% above pre-pandemic levels, and we know that sexual violence crimes have some of the highest attrition rates, so will be most affected by delays. We urgently need the Nightingale Court to be confirmed, and ideally further capacity too. I will keep up the pressure on this.
- I welcomed the appointment of the Chair of the Sarah Everard inquiry. This inquiry will be non-statutory, but even these can be very long, so I was pleased to receive reassurance from the Home Secretary that necessary changes on vetting and the treatment of and sanctions for sexual misconduct allegations will be taken in the interim. It is vital that women feel safe today and that action is taken as soon as possible.
- Finally, I was pleased to see the funding given by the Chancellor in the Budget to special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and, further to this announcement I wrote to the Children’s Minister to ensure children and schools across Sevenoaks and Swanley benefit. I have now heard back and, am delighted to confirm that Kent will be receiving £6.6 million, to support our children and pupils. I will be taking up the opportunities this presents for Sevenoaks and Swanley with Kent County Council. Brilliant work has already been done locally to improve school choice, and improve school facilities, but I want every child to have the best possible start in life and to fulfil their potential.