Here we go again. Happy New Lockdown! After lots of good news to start 2021 with the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and an EU deal at last (I think it is a record, a whole week gone by and no emails on Brexit!) then comes the news about a national lockdown.
Whilst I do not underestimate the seriousness of the spread of the infection with the new COVID strain I have voiced my concerns about the wisdom of blanket lockdowns as a solution in the past. I am bitterly disappointed about the decision to close schools again and the impact it is having on the mental health and the attainment gap of our children, let alone families who have to change whole working patterns again as well. These are all points I will seek to raise when Parliament debates the regulations on Wednesday after writing this column but getting called to speak has become a real lottery, literally.
Whatever our reservations it is essential that everyone pulls together and abides by the rules and guidance the Government is laying out. For a long while before Christmas infection rates in Adur and Worthing were amongst the very lowest in the whole country which is why I argued then that we should be in a less restrictive tier but we have also seen how quickly circumstances can change and we must not stop being vigilant.
The difference with this lockdown is that we can see the vaccination light at the end of the tunnel, and it is reassuring that we have bought up more doses of the vaccine per head than any other country. I know people were frustrated that the Pfizer vaccine was not initially rolled out to surgeries in Adur and Worthing because of limitations on supply and specialist requirements for storage. However, the Oxford/AstraZeneca version is being made available locally this week and the most vulnerable groups of people are already receiving their ‘call-up papers.’
I am in no doubt that the Government’s single greatest priority must be to roll-out the vaccine as widely and as quickly as possible. 14m by the middle of February to cover the 4 most vulnerable groups sounds impressive and I heard a representative from Brighton Hospital yesterday boasting about 14-hour openings for vaccinations. But why not 24 hours every day as long as the vaccine supply is there? There are plenty of non-hospital staff now being trained up to jab who I am sure would do overnight shifts and if I was offered a 4am slot rather than wait a month I would certainly take it. This surely is a ‘Little Ships’ moment when everyone surely wants to do everything possible.
Note to Elf remember to put on thermals when riding on the back of a sleigh at speed along the A259. It was great fun dressed as one of Santa’s ‘little helpers’ on his sleigh on Christmas Eve delivering Christmas lunches to vulnerable people and goodie bags to care home workers. But it was certainly chilly and I have renewed respect to all the Rotary members who took the sleigh out night after night. Thanks also to all those who so generously donated to the appeals to make it possible.