As I write this month’s column I recognise this has been a very tough start to 2021 and many people are finding this set of restrictions incredibly difficult. However, despite all this, we do have reasons to be optimistic, particularly with the vaccine rollout which is going well. At the time of writing we had delivered over 10 million vaccine doses across the UK, and within North West London we have delivered over 240,000, the highest in London. We have now been able to offer vaccines to all of our care home residents and we are on track to have offered all of the top 4 priority groups vaccinations by the middle of this month. This will ensure we protect the most vulnerable people in our communities. I speak throughout every week with Ministers, local healthcare leaders and GPs about the delivery programme and while I know there have been some teething issues it is generally working to plan.
Looking further to other areas of local life, I have continued with a series of sector specific surgeries. Given the closure of schools, I have prioritised education and early years, and have held surgeries with local secondary school headteachers, primary school headteachers and early years providers. There were many similarities across these three sectors and I appreciate that staff are anxious and that is why I continue to push Government to make as much of their data as possible accessible to members of the public. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) continues to monitor and publish evidence about the safety of different settings and this continues to show that people working with children are at no more risk than any other adult from Covid, and children themselves remain extremely low risk.
These surgeries provided me with some very useful insights about the situation on the ground and gave me points to bring back to the Education Select Committee in Westminster and challenge the medical and scientific professionals who are advising on these measures. The important message to get across is that schools and early years settings are incredibly safe places to be. I am adamant in my view that schools must be among the first things to reopen and am pleased that Ministers have said on record that they will give school leaders 2 weeks notice ahead of reopening. School leaders were clear about the need for this notice and it will be imperative in managing the safe return of children to school.
I know these measures are having a huge impact on all our lives and everyone is having to make sacrifices. However, I plead with everyone to stick with it and follow the rules. Together we can help protect the most vulnerable in our communities while the NHS continue with the vaccine roll out, and the positive signs from the vaccination programme give us hope for a more normal way of life in the near future.
First published: My Local News, February 2021