The decision this week to enter the third period of severe national restrictions for England, introduced literally overnight on Monday, was clearly very difficult and hugely disappointing for everyone.
But this new variant virus is spreading so fast that our hospitals are filling up, with 40 per cent more Covid cases across the country than at the peak last spring.
Cases more than doubled in Shropshire since Christmas Eve. So the PM is right to take drastic action to keep social contact to a minimum until the vaccine has protected the vulnerable.
The new rules mean you must not leave home, except where necessary.
For clarity, you may leave home: to shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person; to go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home; to exercise with your household or support bubble, or one other person, but this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area; to meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary; to seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse); or to attend education or childcare for those eligible.
Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. Full details of the new national measures are available at www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home.
The Chancellor announced additional support for businesses, with one-off top up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses worth up to £9,000 per property to help businesses through to the spring, and £594 million discretionary funding to support other impacted businesses.
This will be administered by Shropshire Council. The PM has made clear the government’s intent by mid-February to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the top four priority groups, including right across South Shropshire – to all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, everyone over the age of 70, all front line health and social care workers, and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.
We should be cautious about timetabling a return to normality, but my hope is that with a faster vaccine rollout, and public adherence to the rules, we will be able to reduce these measures and then restore some sense of normality.