Over 23 million people have been vaccinated across our country. In Devon, around half of all adults now have protection against the virus.
Staff and volunteers at vaccination hubs across East Devon continue to go above and beyond to ensure the operation runs safely and smoothly.
When you go for the jab and see friendly faces, it’s worth bearing in mind the people who you might not see that helped make it happen. Fatigued GP staff, in particular, are regularly giving up evenings and weekends to ring residents at short notice to invite them to come forward.
Plenty of people point to this hard work and its success in bringing down hospitalisations and deaths. They say we should bring forward the timetable and go faster out of lockdown.
The desire to get back to normal, which I completely share, needs certainty. Local businesses need the steps taken to unlock to be irreversible. They need freedom to operate and really bounce back strongly when they reopen their doors in a few weeks.
However, as a country, some things we cannot control. Much of Europe is struggling to vaccinate its populations as cases rise. Across the Channel, France has the highest level of intensive care patients since last November.
In Parliament this week, I asked the Transport Secretary about international travel. The Secretary of State told me the plan to safely restart international travel will come out shortly, so Brits can have the confidence to go abroad to see friends, family or enjoy a holiday, hopefully this summer. Certainty is crucial to help save local jobs in travel agents on high streets across East Devon and beyond.
In the meantime, Exeter Airport will continue to access bespoke support following the Budget from the Chancellor. Passenger numbers are down 90% and it is clear that long-term solutions will be needed to ensure our airport makes a full recovery.
While many jobs such as aircraft engineering are still there and expanding and new operators have taken on some routes, we are still picking up the pieces of the devastating collapse of Flybe, one year on. In order to avoid the collapse of other airlines, the punitive taxes on domestic flights which both hit regional airports and airlines hardest must be urgently reformed. I raised my concerns in Parliament recently and I’m delighted the Prime Minister agrees with me and a proper review will now take place.
Over the next few weeks, I expect quite a lot will be said about the stages and dates for releasing lockdown. I’m never a fan of the usual media speculation before official announcements. Schools are back. The data continues to move in the right direction. And jab by jab we can see the plan working.
This column first appeared in the Exmouth Journal on Wednesday 17th March 2021 and in the Sidmouth Herald and Midweek Herald later in the week.