Writing in this week’s Redditch Standard (December 3rd), Rachel said:

“I know many of you will be concerned about the new Coronavirus variant, Omicron. It is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.

“We always knew a variant would be discovered. Viruses mutate, so it was inevitable the Delta variant would not be the last mutation of COVID-19 we would need to be concerned about.

“The world’s scientists are, as we speak, gathering more data and information about this variant. But as we wait to learn more, I think it is right the Government has responded in a proportionate and responsible way. 

“As you’ll know by now, face coverings are once again compulsory on public transport and in shops, all contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate for ten days and all international arrivals must take a PCR test on or before day two and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. These temporary measures will be reviewed in 3 weeks’ time.

“Whilst we wait for scientists to assess the new variant, the Government is getting on and strengthening our defences this winter. We know the biggest defence against this virus remains getting as many jabs in arms as possible. This is our best weapon against COVID-19.

“That is why we are speeding up our booster programme with a target to offer booster jabs to all adults in England by the end of January – with the help of 400 military personnel and over 1,500 community pharmacy sites, additional hospital hubs, and pop-up sites opening to offer jabs.

“A massive thank you to the NHS, GPs, vaccine volunteers and Knights Pharmacy in Redditch for getting jabs into arms. You’ve all given so much already, and I know even more is now being asked for you at this critical time. We’re all incredibly grateful for all that you have done.

“More than 18 million life-saving top-up jabs have now been given across the UK – more than any other country in Europe– and we all have a role to play in this national mission to get protected when our time comes – protecting ourselves and our families this winter. 

“The latest data available to us shows that more than 16,500 people in Redditch have so far received their booster jab – increasing their protection against COVID-19 this winter.

“I’ve had my booster shot, and I’m urging you to get yours too. We have made so much progress in the fight against this virus, so let’s now throw it away now. Please get your booster shot when your time comes.”