Late last week, I attended a briefing by the Chief Executives of Ipswich Hospital and our local NHS Commissioning Group, Nick Hulme and Ed Garratt. Whilst infections rates are falling across the county, especially here in East Suffolk, the number of patients being admitted to hospital with coronavirus is rising. Admission testing is also identifying people coming in for other treatments as having Covid too, which is presenting its own challenges, as the subsequent rearrangement of patients is then needed to help control the transmission. Although the tiers will be reviewed next week, the fact that the number of hospital admissions is rising makes me less confident about us moving out of Tier 2 before Christmas. I know this isn’t the news that our precious hospitality industry wants to hear, as I know just how important having a good Christmas and New Year is to them. Our local councils are continuing to pay out grants and if we all work together, adhering to the basics of hands, face and space, I hope it won’t be too long before we’re in the Tier with the least amount of restrictions. Despite the storage challenges of the Pfizer vaccine, the immunisation programme will help the high priority people shortly and it will certainly be easier to roll out the full programmes when the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is approved for use.
As we head full throttle towards the Christmas holidays, I want to take this opportunity to, once again, thank all the teachers and other staff who have done so much to keep our schools fully open in the latter half of this year. Getting out of the learning habit can have a really negative impact on children's futures which is why it is vitally important that they’re back at school – and last week the government announced a new funding and support programme to help schools and colleges during the pandemic. Education establishments facing the greatest combined staffing and funding pressures will be able to claim via the fund.
I know this year has been really tough, but as this is my last column of 2020, I’d like to wish all East Anglian Daily Times readers a very Merry Christmas. It’s my profound hope that 2021 brings much more normality to our lives.