Many of us will spend tomorrow apart from our loved ones. Families will enjoy the smallest celebration. There will be an absence of the party spirit across our region. We are living through history; in years to come, people will look back on these days and remark on the stoicism we showed in the face of profound threat.
Hard though it is, it is right that we should be maintaining our distance at this time. The virus has claimed too many lives, spoiled too many livelihoods, caused too much disruption and we must do what we can to mitigate its further spread. We have all become experts on Covid-19. We know that by leaving space, washing our hands and avoiding touching our faces we can reduce transmission.
With more people on the verge of moving into Tier 4 there will be further hardship for people already at the end of their tether. These are testing times.
As we entered a new decade, we might have thought the year would be dominated by our departure from the European Union, which is now but days away.
We could not have foreseen events on the horizon. Though scientists had modelled the effects of a pandemic, the public had no inclination that it might actually happen. Such a scenario was theoretical; why believe it would actually happen if it had not for the preceding century?
And yet Covid arrived like a hurricane. And we are not yet out of the woods. Indeed, the Covid strain that is circulating rapidly in Britain has exacerbated the problems we were already facing. We will require tougher lockdowns, time away from others and resolve.
There is light on the horizon as the vaccines are rolled out. That must take place efficiently, carefully and without error. It is a huge task yet we are one of the richest nations on Earth and have the resources to protect our citizens.
Scientists have been the true stars of 2020, along with essential workers, and their successful achievement in finding a vaccine has been remarkable.
There is hope that by late spring we may be seeing progress. Lockdowns may be over as the most vulnerable in our society have received a vaccination. Yet we are inevitably going to have to learn to live with Covid. It is unlikely to go away, as the Spanish Flu did.
There is poignancy as we remember the lives of those we have lost. Across our community, many have passed before their time. Families have faced improbable hardship and been under remarkable duress as they have suffered in the worst imaginable circumstances. Alienated from loved ones, unable to attend funerals, these have been times we might wish to forget.
And yet as the season of goodwill begins, we should also reflect on the community spirit and resilience shown. We have, mostly, been in this together. From top to bottom, people have mucked in. We have expressed affection and gratitude for key workers by clapping on our doorsteps. We have delivered packages to the elderly and sick. We have organised sponsored events and picked up the slack where central and local Government has been unable to help. Now is the time to make the most of what we have and draw our loved ones near.