It will come as a very welcome relief to so many that schools are returning on 8th March. For educational and social reasons schools quite rightly are the top priority in a purposeful programme to get us back to normality.
Despite the brilliance of the vaccine programme, no vaccine is 100 per cent effective, we still have much of the population to inoculate, it takes time for vaccines to become properly effective and the NHS remains under intense pressure. It is vital is that we unlock in a measured way.
We have a roadmap to normality, progress will depend on: the ongoing success of the vaccine programme; the level of increase in infections as we “unlock” being contained and pressure on the NHS reducing; and new Covid variants not fundamentally changing the risk profile.
I know many businesses in particular, who would like to see faster unlocking and absolute certainty. So would we all. However it is critical that this programme results in steady and deliverable progress that is sustainable. This plan should deliver just that.
We are only able to get there due to the vaccine programme which is brilliant in its own right and in comparison to every other large country globally.
Across Sussex, over half a million vaccines have now been delivered.
Those over 60 are being invited to attend a regional centre (another of which opened in Chichester last week), but if preferred can wait to be contacted by their GP. Meanwhile GPs locally and across the country are focussed on the 7.2m adults who have additional vulnerabilities making them higher risk - and where appropriate their carers.
Those who are awaiting their second dose will soon be contacted (if they have not been given a date already) and will have their second dose at the same place they had their first.
Over 18 million people across the UK have been vaccinated and all adults in the UK will be offered their first jab by the end of July. There is already evidence that the programme is substantially reducing the risk of hospitalisation from Covid: studies show the risk falls by 85% and 94% four weeks after the first dose of the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are delivered. It seems that locally in particular very few people need any encouragement to be vaccinated - but those figures in any event speak for themselves.
The effectiveness of the vaccines and the speed of their delivery, alongside everyone’s commitment to lockdown does enable us to finally see the way out with confidence.