The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 8th January:
This week the Prime Minister announced that the whole country will now be entering our third national lockdown. I’m sure many of you will feel disheartened by the latest news and I share your disappointment that we’re once again in this position after everything we’ve already sacrificed.
But the current situation is incredibly serious. The virus is spreading exponentially across the country, many of you will have friends or family members who are seriously ill, or who have been struck down by this devastating virus.
I spoke before Christmas about how with the new year, we also have new hope. That hasn’t changed. These new measures may feel like a setback but let us not forget that this is a very different situation to the one we found ourselves in to March last year. Thanks to the dedication, and brilliance of our scientists, there is hope of a way out of this nightmare with the promise of a vaccine.
The government has committed to a massive and immediate vaccination programme that delivers to people in every corner of the UK. The vaccine programme must be delivered with both the speed and efficiency that people have been promised alongside an effective test and trace system.
This week, I spoke in the House of Commons on the need for government support for all workers, however much they earn, to access a test and to be able to isolate without losing out financially.
I’ve been in touch with Head Teachers across Barnsley East about the shambolic way in which the government have continued to change their policy for schools over the last month. I can only praise them for their professionalism and continued optimism in dealing with the crisis. Young people, particularly those from deprived backgrounds, must not miss out on an education whilst schools are closed, and we must urgently step up remote and online working.
There’s been a lot of support for businesses of all sizes, but it’s also vital that the government goes further with its support for small businesses helping to protect livelihoods and public spaces that are at the very centre of our communities with strong, and easily accessible economic packages.
We were the first country in the world to approve a vaccine, we should now be aiming to be the first country in the world to get vaccinated, with a minimum of 2 million people a week – and we’re not there yet.
Now more than ever, it is of vital importance that we all stay at home, protect the NHS, and vaccinate Britain.