As this is my first column of the year let me start by wishing readers a happy and more importantly healthier new year.
Unfortunately, we started the new year with entering a new national lockdown, with a new variant which is much more transmissible seeing cases increase dramatically not only locally but across the country – this was the right, albeit incredibly difficult decision.
Whilst I’ve voted against previous Covid restrictions, the increase in deaths and the pressures on the NHS in terms of capacity and critical care are extremely serious and that is why I supported these tough measures.
The difference with this lockdown is that we now have a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of the vaccines. As I write over 4.4 million vaccines have been delivered nationally with that number increasing massively day by day. As more people receive the vaccine, the hope is that we will be able to reopen the country in the knowledge that the most vulnerable are safe.
Locally we’ve delivered over 11,000 vaccines with a further 8,000 scheduled for this week, with us being on course to vaccinate the 4 most vulnerable groups by mid-Feb in line with the Prime Minister’s target. If I have two messages to send, the first would be my thanks to all those taking part in the vaccination program whether staff or volunteers to help ensure the most vulnerable to the virus are inoculated. Secondly, it would be a plea to everyone, if you are invited for a vaccine, please do take part for your own safety, on average every 250 vaccines delivered saves a live.
Following pressure from my colleague James Daly MP and I, financial assistance in the form of discretionary grants are to be opened to even more businesses. This means that small and home-based businesses will soon be eligible for Government funding now that the Council is changing its rigid criteria.
If you’ve been unsuccessful in applying for funding for your business so far, I would urge you to get in touch with the Council once the new guidance is agreed on Wednesday.