There is light at the end of the tunnel. The end of the draconian measures we’ve all needed to take to hold back coronavirus – especially the new strain – are getting closer and closer. Every day we’ve vaccinating around 250,000 people. With a death rate of roughly 1:250 that means every day, by vaccinating and following the restrictions 1,000 lives are being saved giving on average another 10 years of life. And every day too, we’re one step closer to ending the necessary restrictions that are costing our economy nationally, £1 billion-a-day and causing such hardship to our local economy.
The start to 2021 is a lot lighter now our vaccination programme has got off to a brilliant start.
At a recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting I attended, I had the chance to quiz the Chair of the Vaccine Programme and the Head of NHS England. They confirmed that with millions of doses administered we’re streets ahead of comparable countries. Not only this, but County Durham is doing it around 25% faster than the rest of the country.
I’ve spoken to our local NHS and local care home providers, who have informed me that vaccinations of local NHS and care home staff are progressing well, as are vaccinations for those in care homes. They are also carrying out individual visits to people’s homes to ensure that those who are most at risk and unable to travel get the vaccine.
Seven mass vaccination sites have now launched across England and people will start to receive letters inviting them to a site. Government has committed to an ambitious target of offering a first dose of the vaccine to fifteen million of the most vulnerable people by the 15th February. From the evidence I heard at PAC during the session on Planning for a Vaccine, this target is achievable – perhaps even beatable.
The vaccination programme comes on top of further packages of financial support that will ensure we protect jobs and keep the economy going. Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses can now claim a grant of up to £9000, the furlough scheme has been extended until the end of April, as has SEISS, businesses forced to close can claim up to £3000 a month, local authorities will receive an additional £500 million to support local businesses, and schemes like mortgage holidays and the kickstart scheme are continuing. Durham County Council is also set to receive over £750,000 to help homeless people and those at risk of homelessness, as part of the Government’s ongoing plan to support the most vulnerable in society.
I know that this is a difficult time for everyone, but we can finally see an end point, and this will only get closer as we see the vaccination programmes expand. My office has been working incredibly hard recently with vaccine and lockdown-related casework and, as ever, if you have any queries or issues you would like me to assist with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
So, a very Happy New Year to you all and I will keep you all updated as things get ever more positive over the next few weeks and, before too long, I look forward to seeing many of you down the pub or at the coffee shop, or on the high street again.