The vaccination programme against coronavirus here in Shropshire has reached another significant milestone.
Having successfully offered the vaccine to all those in the top four priority groups, we have now started vaccinating people aged 65 to 69 and those who are clinically vulnerable to the virus.
Letters are being sent from the National Booking Service inviting people aged over 65 to book an appointment at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by calling 119 anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.
GP practices are focusing on contacting people who are shielding and those who are housebound for medical reasons.
This is a major step on our way back to some kind of normality and I would again like to offer my thanks and praise to everyone who has been part of this fantastic effort.
It is still less than 12 months since we saw our first coronavirus case in Shropshire, so that gives you some idea how far we have come in such a short space of time.
At SaTH this week we have deployed a team to help carry out coronavirus swabs for complex patients who are medically fit for discharge, to speed up that process.
The ‘Swab Squad’ will help make sure every patient needing a supported discharge has a valid swab result from the last 48 hours, in line with national guidance.
I’d like to thank our colleagues at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, who have lent some of their staff to help this effort.
While all of this is good news, and while there is speculation in the media about how and when we might come out of lockdown, it is important to remember that we are not there yet.
Even if you have had the first, or even second, dose of the vaccine, you must still obey the national restrictions and stay at home as much as possible.
Some people have questioned the value of the vaccine, given this advice, but it is important to remember that there is still a significant proportion of the population who have yet to receive their first jab and, until we can vaccinate more people, we must continue to do all we can to slow the spread of this virus.
Deaths and cases nationwide continue to fall. But over 200 deaths each day and over 9,000 new cases is still far too many. Having more than 100 patients with coronavirus in our hospitals is still too many.
As I’ve said before, I know it is not easy. I know how much we all want to see our loved ones and go out and socialise.
But doing the right thing is not always easy. Thank you for helping to protect the NHS and to save lives.