MICHAEL GOVE on why the vaccine proves the union works for us all

‘Tested in Scotland, made in England, put in glass vials in Wales – our Covid jabs are a UK triumph’: MICHAEL GOVE on why the vaccine proves the union works for us all

Military medics from the British Army began vaccinating people in Scotland against Covid-19 last week, adding jabs in arms to their arsenal of efforts to save lives and slow down the spread of the coronavirus across the country.

As they have for centuries in times of crisis – albeit this time against an invisible enemy – our Armed Forces are stepping up. Men and women from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, shoulder to shoulder on behalf of the whole United Kingdom, offering up their talents and strengths in the service of us all.

I heard Nicola Sturgeon recognise their valuable contribution last week in the Scottish Parliament during First Minister’s Questions, when she embraced the support of ‘our Armed Forces’ – funded in part by Scottish taxpayers, she also noted – for the vaccine rollout in Scotland. And I couldn’t agree more, with either her description or the huge gratitude she expressed for their help.

We are all in this together. The UK Government working with the devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Stormont, using the historic ties we have built up over 300 years to face down the terrible threat of Covid-19. Our greatest ever peacetime team effort.

Michael Gove (pictured) writes: Military medics from the British Army began vaccinating people in Scotland against Covid-19 last week, adding jabs in arms to their arsenal of efforts to save lives and slow down the spread of the coronavirus across the country

And what we have learned along the way is the crucial part that pooling our knowledge, sharing our experiences, learning from each other and working together across the UK will also play in us building back better and stronger from the pandemic.

Help has been given to all four nations: financial, military and medical, and our citizens have come together in kind.

Across the country, lives and livelihoods are being supported by £280 billion worth of financial support provided by the UK Treasury to weather the storm, including furlough payments for 900,000 workers in Scotland.

Our health services are pulling together, with ambulance calls in Scotland being answered by teams in England to ensure there is no delay, underlining our pledge of mutual aid around the UK. 

At the Lighthouse Lab at the University of Glasgow – which the Prime Minister toured on his recent visit to Scotland, to meet and hear first-hand from frontline health professionals their experiences of tackling Covid-19 – technicians from the 650-strong workforce have been processing test samples since April 2020, playing a pivotal part in the UK pandemic response. That’s what our four nations do in times of need: support one another.

We are all in this together. The UK Government working with the devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Stormont, using the historic ties we have built up over 300 years to face down the terrible threat of Covid-19 (stock image)

And, of course, it is UK Government investment, in the form of research funding for universities and scientific institutions in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales, that has funded the innovative vaccines that are our exit route from lockdown to more normal lives. 

Some of those vaccines were tested by volunteers in Scotland, manufactured in England, put into glass vials in a plant in Wales – and dispatched by the UK Government to all parts of the UK.

In return for the £300 million it put into developing vaccines, the UK Government has so far secured 400 million doses: an excellent rate of return by any measure.

As for the UK’s vaccination programme itself, almost unbelievably, given the astonishing progress, it is only two months – almost to the very day – since it all began. On December 8, 2020 a grandmother in Coventry, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, became the first person anywhere on Earth to be vaccinated against Covid-19 outside a trial.

From this standing start, the UK’s world-leading rollout has so far vaccinated more than 10 million people and counting. Things have been a bit slower in Scotland so I was delighted to see the pace picking up last week, where more than 200 military personnel are now supporting our brilliant NHS professionals, setting up 80 vaccination centres to help speed the rollout even more. 

I couldn’t have been happier when my parents in Aberdeen – as with so many of us, I was unable to see them this Christmas or indeed since – got their jabs just a few days ago.

Our health services are pulling together, with ambulance calls in Scotland being answered by teams in England to ensure there is no delay, underlining our pledge of mutual aid around the UK (stock image)

Of course, bold leadership has led the team effort. It was the Prime Minister, on the front foot, who ensured that work on an independent UK vaccine supply began back in February 2020. 

The UK Vaccine Taskforce he created under Kate Bingham made a series of far-sighted investments into a range of technologies, including the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab. 

These no-nonsense decisions to prioritise speed and a strong supply chain above cost have paid off for the UK. In comparison to the stuttering performance of governments across Europe, the UK – by being in at the start and making gutsy choices, and with our combined strength – has secured therapies that will transform lives not only across our country, but the globe. 

The Oxford vaccine has so far been granted conditional authorisation or emergency use in nearly 50 countries, spanning four continents. The UK is keen to take a leading role in helping the developing world to benefit from its protection – a great way to extend the benefits of our team effort around the world.

I know from speaking to the First Minister on one of the calls between the four UK administrations that have become more frequent during the Covid-19 crisis that Nicola is very supportive of such an initiative.

During our joint mission over the course of the pandemic, the pattern has been for we politicians to talk, co-operate and collaborate more, and therefore to achieve more, for people and communities everywhere.

With our collective strength, working as four nations, we can do more to protect the most vulnerable in society and carry on reducing the transmission of the virus in the community.

Vital steps that will allow us to focus all our energy and attention on easing restrictions, coming out of lockdown together and putting the nightmare of Covid-19 behind us – as one United Kingdom.

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