2021 is a year of hope but there is no doubt that the winter months ahead will still be tough, with the new national lockdown driven by this much more transmissible strain of Covid-19. It’s as critical as ever for us all to keep focused on reducing that transmission. By staying at home by default and if you need to go out, by keeping your distance from others. Regular handwashing and allowing some ventilation/fresh air into your home is still the best way to stop people getting ill, while we don't have the whole population vaccinated.
The reason for hope is we now have three Covid-19 vaccines approved, with local rollout having started this week. In Suffolk Coastal, we have sites on the edge of Ipswich and in Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Saxmundham, Leiston and Reydon. I am hoping that there will soon be a site closer to Halesworth and I’m corresponding with local NHS colleagues to try and facilitate that.
We don’t have enough evidence yet to know if the vaccines can stop transmission, but we know they reduce deaths. That is why the priority is to first vaccinate those people most at risk of dying if they catch the virus, which is largely driven by age, rather than someone being considered to be a key worker. That is why people need to await contact from their GP for their vaccination and then to take up their appointment as quickly as possible. I am confident that by the end of January everyone over 80 will have had their first vaccination dose and we will see the number of people being covered accelerating rapidly. Whilst we have pre-ordered millions of doses, the limiting factor now is the timely production of those doses and I understand contracts are being updated to accelerate the timetable.
Closure of schools for most children was absolutely a last resort for the Prime Minister as we know how important education is to future life opportunities. When the Chief Medical Officer stated that Alert Level 5 was triggered, I.E that the NHS could be overwhelmed within 3 weeks, the PM took the decision. I know schools have been working hard to bring children back with testing and that preparation is still important, though the shift for most children to online learning brings its own challenges. Nevertheless, I know that we must all strive to keep to the rules so we can get through this together.