Last week we were greeted by the grim news of Omicron – a significant new variant of Covid-19, the first in several weeks. Rightly, the Government acted quickly to take reasonable precautions.

I’ve been stopped in the street endlessly and asked: Are we going to be OK? We face uncertainty as we do in every pandemic. However, very little information is available about the new variant. 

The Government’s response so far has been right – rapid action to take appropriate precautions.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, was called out last week for his rapid response to prevent flights from South Africa. I think he was right.

Because of the uncertainty and how long it takes each variant to be evaluated, it is important that we slow the spread. My experience as Health Secretary taught me that new facts are best acted upon quickly.

Last week we were greeted by the grim news of Omicron ¿ a significant new variant of Covid-19, the first in several weeks. The Government rightly acted fast to take sensible precautions

Last week we were greeted by the grim news of Omicron – a significant new variant of Covid-19, the first in several weeks. To be safe, the government acted swiftly to ensure that sensible precautions were taken

So this new Covid variant reminds us that this crisis isn’t over. We are, however, in a much stronger position. The UK is stronger. 

We must remain vigilant but we can still get the job done without having to resort to the same draconian steps that we did last year.

It will be one year since the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccination was officially approved. This Thursday, it will mark this milestone. The moment that I heard the results of the last trials was a memorable one. 

I went straight to the Prime Minister to inform him that our country would become the first to begin vaccinating.

I felt a mixture of emotions – relief that we had a way out, joy that we could see a way to get things back to normal, and pride in the team who had really pulled it out of the bag.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid was criticised last week for acting so quickly to stop flights from southern Africa, where the new variant was first seen, but in my view he was absolutely correct

Last week, Health Secretary Sajid javid was criticised for his quick response to stopping flights from south Africa. This is where the first variant of the virus was discovered. However, I believe he had absolutely right

It took months of hardwork to get here. We could now replace restrictions and lockdowns with protection using modern science. 

I believe this moment is the one that human science and innovation started to defeat the invisible enemy of Covid.

We now have vaccines and boosters as well as tests. And we also have the infrastructure necessary to transport them all to their destinations.

The UK’s rollout was the fastest of any major country in the world, meaning that over the summer the Prime Minister could lift almost all of the remaining restrictions.

He was criticised at the time and told the plan wouldn’t work. He asked, “If not now then when?” It is possible to remove summer restrictions, while the vaccine protection would help keep the virus under control. 

Even though we’ve seen an increase in the number cases, hospitalisations have begun to decline.

In autumn 2009, Covid patients were at peak at 9667 but have since dropped to below 8,000. 

In a single month, the number of patients who arrive at Covid hospitals has dropped by more than a quarter.

Covid has been spreading among many people since the summer. According to hospitals, most young patients in Covid wards have not been vaccinated.

After getting the jab, people can also catch Covid. But the chances are that it’s likely to be similar to a bad cold, and your chances of ending up in hospital, or worse, are low.

All of this means that immunity levels are much higher. Figures released last week from the UK Health Security Agency show that 98 per cent of adults have antibodies – from infection or vaccination – compared with just over a fifth from infection alone. The new variant might not react as well to vaccinations but it’s unlikely it will stop responding. The truth is that we don’t know the answer. 

I¿ve been stopped in the street endlessly and asked: Are we going to be OK? As so often in this pandemic we face uncertainty, as little is yet known about this new variant

I’ve been stopped in the street endlessly and asked: Are we going to be OK? Like so many times in this pandemic, we are uncertain about what this new variant will look like. 

We are more prepared than our international friends. Other European countries have imposed more restrictions and we are seeing the death and case rate increase exponentially. 

Britain’s early adoption of a vaccine means we have avoided this fate. It wasn’t just that we had the first approval in the world and the fastest rollout of any major country, it was that the overwhelming majority of people came forward to get the jab.

Nearly 100 percent of those in most need are vaccinated. More than 9 out 10 people over 65 have been vaccinated. It’s been a huge team effort and everyone has played their part.

The boosters will provide an additional layer of protection this autumn. Britain is the leader in this area. The protection we have now is stronger than ever, with more than 25% of us having boosters.

And boosters – especially from a mix of different vaccines – give a broader protection that is likely to be more effective against a wider array of variants.

AstraZeneca’s strikingly new evidence, which was presented last week, also shows that the Oxford vaccine is capable of generating T-cell protection, a long-lasting second safeguard.

At the start of the pandemic we stuck with the science and backed the British jab – instead of dismissing it for narrow political reasons as some of our Continental neighbours did.

In addition, striking new evidence from AstraZeneca last week also shows the power of the Oxford vaccine in generating a second, longer-lasting safeguard called T-cell protection

AstraZeneca’s strikingly new evidence, which was presented last week, also supports the Oxford vaccine’s ability to generate T-cell protection, a long-lasting second safeguard.

Nearly half the UK’s first jabs were done with the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccination, but far less of Europe’s neighbours received it. 

In other ways, we came together as one nation. For vaccines as well as boosters, the priority is given to those whose lives are most at-risk.

Although many countries worldwide prioritise vaccination via employment, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advised us to follow the recommendations of independent experts and order our clinical needs.

Research published recently by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine modelled the immunity levels of 19 countries in Europe. 

The results showed that, if we were all suddenly exposed to the virus at once, our immunity and vaccine levels would ensure that we are the least likely to contract serious illness.

The next step is large-scale testing, which will allow us to identify the source of the virus. We received the first lateral flow test, which are ubiquitous now, just over a year back.

It is important to test regularly in order to detect illness and prevent others from contracting it. Regular testing is essential to our armoury, and it helps keep us firing on all cylinders.

If you are diagnosed with Covid, there are now antiviral therapies that can lower its impact. These are being given to those most at risk – and they have the potential to save many lives.

Like with vaccines, we don’t know yet how much the new variant will affect their life-saving power. However, we know the chances of getting back to square one are very slim.

This race between the virus and vaccines isn’t over yet. It is important to be alert. It is important to get immunized as soon as possible. But we are better prepared and better able to respond to this new variant – and keep our much cherished freedoms this winter.