My deepest condolences are with Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family following the terribly sad news of the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh.
We have heard many touching tributes over recent days reflecting on Prince Philip’s lifetime of service to Queen and country. The country owes his life and work a great debt. A much-loved public figure, Prince Philip was Captain General of the Royal Marines and served in WW2. He trained as an officer at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth – where he first met then Princess Elizabeth – and was mentioned is dispatches for an act of bravery in the Mediterranean.
Away from public service, The Duke of Edinburgh was a father and a devoted husband. Our thoughts should be with The Queen and the entire Royal Family after the loss of an inspirational man who was by The Queen's side for a truly remarkable seven decades.
Locally, you may have noticed that many shops in our towns and villages have reopened. I know many local shopkeepers and high street businesses had 12th April in their diaries for a while. I’m really glad they were able to reopen safely as planned with customers coming through their doors again. I’m going to be dropping by as many local shops as possible to get feedback on how it’s going. Above all, we should have every confidence to shop safely!
It is now vital we all play a part in supporting our local businesses over the coming weeks. In retail, proper customer service always beats the click of a computer mouse when buying online and it is important to recognise that every local purchase protects local jobs.
Outdoor hospitality venues can reopen too. I know in some cases it’s not naturally feasible to do so. That’s why the government has allowed pubs, cafés and restaurants to use their land more flexibly to provide more outdoor space with tables and chairs for diners and set up temporary marquees. I’ve been in touch with local pub owners in Exmouth and Sidmouth who need councils to work positively with them to licence ‘al fresco’. As we know, the hospitality sector has been one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic and everything should be done to help them get back to business.
Meanwhile, we are still on track to offer jabs to all over 50s by 15th April and all adults by the end of July. Over 38 million jabs have been administered in the UK, with over 95 per cent of people aged 60 or over having now received at least one dose.
It is important to note that all appointments at East Devon’s mass vaccination centre until the end of April will remain at Westpoint. Bookings for May onwards will be at Greendale Business Park, just three miles down the road. If you are called forward, please get the jab and accept your second dose to get the best possible protection against the virus. We're making great progress, but we're not out of the woods yet!