Evening Standard Comment: In this crisis we must be open to new ideas | Listen to bosses, Boris

Evening Standard Comment
·3-min read
 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

In this crisis we must be open to new ideas

If you can purchase a pair of ill-judged skinny jeans or a smartwatch at two o’clock in the morning, then you should also be able to get a life-saving vaccine.

It is therefore welcome that London will be host to a pilot programme for round-the-clock vaccinations, with the head of NHS England Sir Simon Stevens saying this could happen in the next 10 days.

This is not the moment to be wedded to how things have been done before — this is an unprecedented health crisis, and we need to demonstrate maximum flexibility and an openness to new ideas.

24/7 jabs are not on their own a silver bullet — they would necessitate greater levels of supply, faster regulatory approvals as well as the hiring of more medical staff and the cooperation of hospitals and pharmacies.

But we must explore all options when it comes to the vaccine roll-out. Covid-19 is one large randomised control trial, impacting as it does every country on earth. We must analyse the data as we go and actively learn from other countries’ roll-outs.

The Government has made a good start — Britain is now vaccinating half a million people a day, and this could rise further. Ministers deserve great credit for the early orders of vaccines, and for ramping up deployment in the last few weeks.

The risk of the NHS being overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients demonstrates the urgency of getting the population vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Middle-of-the-night appointments may not be suitable for vulnerable or older people and it is not the answer to every supply bottleneck or staffing issue.

For obvious reasons, getting an 80-year-old to a vaccination centre at 4am may not be feasible. But other vulnerable people will jump at the opportunity.

That might include people of other age groups most at risk of contracting and spreading the virus as a result of their occupation — for example, supermarket workers, bus drivers and teachers.

We could also use the thousands of venues that serve as polling stations to bring vaccinations closer to the people and must ensure that the process for retired doctors, nurses and pharmacists to register as being able to administer the vaccine is as smooth as possible.

We should also explore all avenues to accelerate vaccine production. Nothing should be off the table at this moment of crisis.

Listen to bosses, Boris

The Prime Minister today hosts the first of his new summits with business leaders in a bid to repair the damage done to relations during Brexit.

He will have hoped his Government’s talk of creating a low-tax, low-regulation Singapore-on-Thames will have fallen on fertile ground.

But he’ll be only half-right. Recent talk of reducing workers’ rights did not go down well in many boardrooms. They are far more enlightened places these days than perhaps Boris Johnson and his Brexiteer advisers realise.

Rather than obsess over rules on maximum working hours, most are more worried about winning back the best and brightest international employees put off Britain by Brexit.

That said, there are areas where bosses want better regulation. Bankers will advise him not to worry overly about striking financial services deals with Europe if they mean we can’t make our own rules on, say, green finance and fintech.

Employers are delighted Johnson is engaging with them again. They just hope he listens to them rather than the more extreme ideologues behind him.