SIOBHAN BAILLIE: Use personal judgement on hugging

The Stroud MP’s weekly column.

The latest easing of lockdown has now happened. I know many people are really pleased we are getting back to normal through the Government’s Road Map out of lockdown.

I was in Stroud town centre at the weekend and enjoyed chatting with retailers, shoppers, café and restaurant owners ahead of our new freedoms. There was a good atmosphere with real hope for the future as the successful vaccination drive continues.

While in Stroud, I was very happy to support the #BeeStroud initiative for independent shops in Stroud, Stonehouse, Nailsworth & Dursley. It has 66 businesses involved already and what a great initiative to get people back into local shops and spending. I’m sure more retailers will join as we go along.

My daughter didn’t get the memo and went round clutching a squirrel in one hand and her #BeeStroud card competition as we collected stamps.

She also got a colouring in page from Tony in Party On Up to do at home.

Real credit must be given to the Chamber of Trade and all the shops who have worked so hard to give our traders a boost. It shows how everyone has had to adapt to our new normal but it also shows there are opportunities too.

From Monday, we can now hug each other, eat inside restaurants, have a pint inside pubs. Groups of six or two households of any size will be allowed to meet indoors for the first time. People can also stay overnight. The outdoors group limit has risen to 30.

Hotels and B&Bs are permitted to open – as well as cinemas, museums and theatres but mask wearing is still mandatory.

The hugging bit has attracted quite some comment and I do think everyone needs to use their personal judgement about this one. My view is that people understand that hugging between people who have been vaccinated and, particularly those who have had both jabs, is safer than hugging those who have not. It is sensible to urge caution, especially if you are in contact with anybody who is vulnerable health wise.

There is also concern about the so-called Indian variant of Covid but experts say it has not evaded the vaccines. This is highlighted in evidence as nearly everyone who is in hospital with Covid in the Bolton hotspot had not received the vaccine even though they were offered one.

The lesson here is sadly quite obvious. I have now received my text message from my local GP surgery to arrange my jab and I will be getting it as soon as I can. Real time data is showing vaccination is breaking the link between infection and serious illness and hospitalisation. These vaccines work, get one. However, variants could potentially pose a risk. We still need to keep to the rules and ease ourselves out of this lockdown.

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