The latest Government announcement is not the news any of us wanted to hear, however we must all recognise that it is needed to slow down the spread of this virus, particularly with the new variant being up to 70 percent more transmissible.
We need to do everything we can to keep infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths as low as possible and protect our NHS services.
Here in Barnsley, the most recent seven-day rate of new COVID-19 infections 260.1 per 100,000 people in the population (using data for the seven days ending on the 30 December). This figure has been steadily climbing and we do not want to see the same high levels of infection as other parts of the country.
I really feel for the businesses who will be affected by this latest lockdown. We will continue to lobby for more financial support for them and encourage them to take advantage of the grants and other support available – both from our local offer and from the Government.
The closure of all schools again is going to be incredibly tough for our children, who will lose yet more learning time, and for parents having to juggle work and childcare.
However, by going into national lockdown now, I hope it can prevent more deaths.
National restrictions, while strict, have been shown to bring infection rates down much faster than other courses of action.
I urge everyone to follow the new rules, it’s the only way to keep each other safe.
As the country’s focus turns to the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme, we will be working hard, together with the NHS and other partners, to maximise our joint resources and accelerate the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines, as well as providing COVID-19 rapid testing to critical workers.
The sooner we can vaccinate as many people as possible against this virus the more likely we are to keep infection rates in check.
These past 10 months have been hard on everyone, but we’ve seen communities pulling together and making personal sacrifices for the greater good. If we can continue to work together as a borough for the next couple of months, we can all look forward to better times ahead.