My latest Rochdale Observer article

It’s definitely not too late to wish everyone reading this a very hearty greeting for 2022. We’ve all been through an awful lot since Covid hit this world and we all need to be able to look forward with hope for the future so to you all, a Happier New Year.
But in truth we still face a struggle with this virus and whilst there’s some good news with the Omicron variant, there’s a sting in the tail. Omicron seems certain now to be less aggressive in its impact so as many more people are being infected, less as a proportion are ending up in hospital. The downside is that with so many people being infected, the thing we wanted most to avoid is happening and our National Health Service is struggling to cope. More NHS staff are having to take time off to isolate at the same time as many more people are in need of care both at home and in hospital. On Tuesday, the Greater Manchester hospital system had to suspend routine hospital appointments and that is a massive blow to people who have already waited a long time for “routine” treatment. But of course “routine” treatment isn’t so routine if, like a friend of mine, you’ve waited years already for a hip operation to let you walk freely and painlessly again. It’s right our NHS  prioritises during this crisis but the NHS went into the Covid crisis underfunded and underprepared. We’re paying a real price for austerity.
And things that are obvious are still not being got right. I’ve got people complaining to me, rightly, that they cannot get hold of the Lateral Flow Test kits that we’re being asked to use. This isn’t putting a man on the moon, it is about organising things properly.
We do know that the best protection for us all against the spread of Covid is to get the vaccine. But I still get those who have convinced themselves that vaccinations don’t work. I know  there are those who won’t believe it but the harsh reality is this, 60% of those with Covid in our Intensive Care Units are those who’ve had no vaccination and 90% are those who’ve not had the booster jab. It’s obvious to me, and Covid nearly killed me, that we all do ourselves and everyone else that favour of getting all three vaccinations as well as taking basic care like wearing a mask and washing your hands.  Not the cheeriest way to end a New Year greeting, but just common sense.

This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 8 January 2022.