The Conservative MP said the threat posed by the new Covid variant is “very, very concerning” as people throughout Harborough gear up to celebrate the festive season.
Neil is calling on people to make sure they are fully vaccinated as he warned the Omicron strain appears to be much more “infectious” – and cases are doubling every 48 or 72 hours.
Talking to the Harborough Mail this morning as he travelled to Westminster for Prime Minister’s Questions, the worried MP said: “The situation with the new Omicron variant is very, very concerning.
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“It is now spreading in Leicestershire and accelerating very fast.
“Cases of Omicron are doubling every two to three days.
“It seems to be much more infectious and also able to reinfect people to a much greater extent,” said Neil.
“The only bit of good news is that vaccination still does reduce the risk of really serious illness and hospitalisation, particularly for people who have had boosters.
“I want to warn people this new wave seems to be coming at us very, very quickly and I'd say if people have the offer of a booster take it up as soon as possible.
“If you know people who are not vaccinated at all please do try persuade them to get it now - people have a very low chance of getting lucky and dodging this new variant."
Cllr Phil King, who leads Harborough District Council, told the Mail: “Make sure you are fully protected this Christmas.
“Get all of your three vaccinations, including the booster.
“Keep testing yourself to ensure you are clear of the virus, wear a face covering and wash your hands.
“The people of Harborough have been very sensible throughout the Covid pandemic – and I’m certain they’ll continue to use common sense.
“But looking at the bigger picture it does worry me there are about 106,000 people in Leicestershire who have been waiting for some form of medical treatment for more than a year.
“That’s seriously concerning,” insisted Cllr King.
“This issue is hitting one in 10 families in Leicestershire – and is having a huge impact on so many people.
“And it’s got to be addressed sooner rather than later.
“It’s also very worrying that so many children, so many pupils, have had their educational development and progress affected by the Covid lockdowns.
“The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are absolutely critical.
“So not being able to go to school or mix with other youngsters and other people has had an enormous impact on their health, their development and ability to socialise,” said Cllr King.
“And what about the long-term impacts for society as a whole, for all of us, that the lockdowns will have?
“So I want to know what the Government’s going to do about this next year – because they have serious questions to answer.”
Today Cllr Phil Knowles, who leads the Liberal Democrat opposition on Harborough council, said: “Firstly I’d like to urge everyone to have a lovely Christmas and to enjoy themselves.
“But we all have to remember to do all we can to stay safe over Christmas and the New Year.
“Get all of your jabs, wear a mask going into shops and indoor spaces, wash your hands and keep your social distance.
“Keep a close eye on all the medical advice being given out – and adhere to any new legal restrictions and guidelines as Christmas looms.
“We’ll obviously have to monitor the new Omicron variant closely.
“I’ve been talking to people in countries like America, Italy and Germany over the last few days – and they’re all concerned because we’re dealing with the unknown here.
“We need to get all the most up-to-date information on the Omicron virus as soon as we can,” said Cllr Knowles.
“It’s a positive thing to keep taking lateral flow tests to ensure that you are clear of Covid and get vaccinated – keep yourself safe and our entire community safe.
“And by protecting ourselves we can try to live life as normally as possible and continue to go into shops, pubs, restaurants and other outlets and hospitality venues to look after our high streets and town centres as well.”
Talking to the Mail last week, Mike Sandys, Leicestershire’s Director of Public Health, said: “My over-riding message as we head towards Christmas is simply this – stay calm and keep doing the right thing.
“It feels a bit like the early days of the Covid pandemic in March last year at the moment with a real sense of panic about.
“None of us needs to panic.
“But we have to behave sensibly, properly and responsibly.
“I would call on people in Harborough as elsewhere to always wear a face covering when you go into a shop.
“That’s mandatory now anyway, it’s not a choice, but I’ve still seen some people going into supermarkets without one,” said Mike.
“Protect yourself and protect others too.
“Continue to wash your hands, ventilate your homes and buildings and clean down all tops and surfaces,” stressed Mike.
“Take a lateral flow test before you go along to a Christmas party or get-together or what ever to make sure you haven’t got Covid.
“And make sure that you get your booster jab.
“Your level of protection against catching the virus must be as high as you can make it.”
Asked about the new threat posed by the Omicron variant from southern Africa starting to sweep the world, Mike replied: “We simply don’t know yet if it’s going to turn out to be a really tricksy or horrible little thing.
“There is still a lot of uncertainty.
“We don’t know for sure if it’s going to be more transmissible than other existing strains.
“Omicron might evade the vaccines we’ve got – but it might not.
“And will it cause more severe illness among victims?
“But I do get the feeling that the experts are more worried about this particular variant.
“There is a reason that our scientists, much brighter people than me, are more concerned about its make-up compared to other types of the virus,” said Mike.
“So the jury is still very much out on Omicron.
“I do know that we have to clamp down on it now before it’s too late.
“It’s always best to be safe rather than sorry.
“And none of us want any more national Covid lockdowns – especially with Christmas fast approaching.
“I’m relying on the people of Harborough behaving well and continuing to take all the necessary precautions as they have done for so long now.
“Heed the messaging and act sensibly and we will all get through this coronavirus pandemic.”