The United Kingdom’s remarkably successful Covid-19 vaccination programme is helping us out of the restrictions of this pandemic.
More than 75 per cent of all adults across the UK have now had their first jab, while over half of adults have been given both doses; that’s a staggering 70 million doses!
I pay tribute to the work of the Government, the NHS, Britain’s armed forces, all other key workers, and the communities and volunteers working every day to deliver the vaccine in Crawley and throughout the UK.
Now that the UK has secured this advantage, it needs to be used to support areas in which the Covid-19 pandemic has hit hardest.
It is nearing a year and a half since I first mentioned coronavirus in the House of Commons chamber, with specific reference to Gatwick Airport. Since then we have lived through three lockdowns and a vaccine roll-out.
My call is that our vaccine dividend can be used to support the aviation industry, which was one of the first to be negatively affected and is at risk of being one of the slowest to recover.
This was among the points I put to the Aviation Minister in a Commons debate on our aviation, travel and tourism sector which took place last week.
This is not just about people going on holiday; it is about the effect on livelihoods, well-being and jobs connected to holidays and many other trips. The Government must avoid a total summer shutdown and ensure that key markets reopen as soon as possible.
Over 1.5 million people were employed in the aviation and travel sectors; the devastating impacts of the pandemic have meant that many have lost their jobs and around half are on furlough. While the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is ending in September, it is clear that furlough will need to be extended if aviation and travel industries have not been able to reopen in a meaningful way over the summer.
The dangers of an overly cautious approach risk causing further damage for the many businesses and workers who depend on international travel. This is the call I continue to make both as Crawley MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation.
Other countries are beginning to open up and ministers must make sure the UK utilises its competitive advantage.
We need to get this right. Ultimately, opening up is about more than any one part of the economy. It is about global Britain, international trade, and people’s jobs.
Henry Smith MP