Roadmap – Return to full attendance at Education Settings

On the 22 February, the Department for Education announced that all schools, colleges and further education settings should allow full attendance from 8 March. Furthermore, higher education providers are asked to recommence in-person teaching and learning in a phased manner from the 8 March for students on practical or practice-based (including creative arts) courses who need access to specialist equipment and facilities.

Key messages
• Our shared goal now is to support pupils and students returning to face-to-face education, and to reverse the long-term impact of the pandemic on their education.

• The Government will review, by the end of the Easter holidays, the options for timing of the return of remaining students. This review will take account of the latest data and will be a key part of the wider roadmap steps. Students and providers will be given a week’s notice ahead of any further return.

• Although the public health picture is improving, it remains crucial that steps are taken to reduce and mitigate any risks within education and childcare settings. DfE has worked closely with PHE to develop and refresh the system of controls to reduce the risk of transmission in education and childcare settings, based on scientific rationale.

Key Q&A
Infection rates within the community continue to remain high. Why have you asked schools and colleges to return to full attendance?

• We are committed to getting all pupils and students back as soon as it is possible to do so.

• We are clear that the decision is based on the balance of risk: to the NHS of rising admissions, but also to students and pupils of the continued educational, social and psychological harms of missed education.

• In doing so, the Department for Education will be informed by the scientific and medical experts, where data and evidence is considered regularly including by SAGE, the Joint Biosecurity Centre, Public Health England, and the Chief Medical Officers.

Why are you not asking remaining HE students to return?

• We are committed to getting all students back into university as soon as the public health situation allows, taking into account the spread of the virus in communities and the pressures on the NHS. In doing so, the government has been informed by the scientific and medical experts, where data and evidence is considered regularly including by SAGE, the Joint Biosecurity Centre, Public Health England, and the Chief Medical Officers.

• The Government will review, by the end of the Easter holidays, the options for timing of the return of the remaining students. This review will take account of the latest data and will be a key part of the wider roadmap steps. Students and providers will be given a week’s notice ahead of any further return.

• Until then, we ask universities to continue to provide high-quality remote education, enabling students to access the help that they need to continue learning whilst at home.

What about clinically extremely vulnerable pupils, students and staff?

• People in the highest risk category (the clinically extremely vulnerable) are currently advised by the Government to shield and stay at home as much as possible until further notice, except to exercise or to attend health appointments (including your vaccination appointments). These individuals will know who they are as they will have been written to, informing them that they are on the list.

• CEV children and young people are advised not to attend educational settings and wraparound childcare. Education settings should make appropriate arrangements for them to continue their education remotely.

• CEV staff should not attend their workplace. Staff should talk to their employers about how they will be supported, including to work from home. Schools and colleges should continue to pay clinically extremely vulnerable staff on their usual terms.

• CEV advice applies to individuals, not households. Those individuals who live with someone who is CEV, but who are not CEV themselves, can still attend education and wrapround childcare settings and work (if they are unable to work from home).

Can parents send their children to wraparound childcare or out-of-school settings to support them to work?

Until 8 March, wraparound childcare providers and out-of-school settings should only offer face-to-face provision to children of critical workers and vulnerable children and young people, in line with those children eligible to attend school for onsite provision.

• From 8 March, wraparound childcare providers and out-of-school settings will be able to offer provision to all children, in line with those returning to school. However, parents and carers will only be able to access settings for certain essential purposes. Providers will be able to offer provision to vulnerable children and young people as normal, but other children should only be accessing this provision, where it is: o Reasonably necessary to enable their parents or carers to work, seek work, undertake education or training, or attend a medical appointment or address a medical need.

• Being used by electively home educating parents, as part of their arrangements for their child to receive a suitable full-time education.

• Being used for the purposes of obtaining a regulated qualification, meeting the entry requirements for an education institution, or to undertake exams or assessments.

• Schools should be working to resume all their breakfast and after-school clubs for their pupils, where this provision is necessary to support parents to important for providing enriching activities which support children’s education, vulnerable children’s wellbeing, as well as supporting parents to work, attend education and access medical care, and to support pupil’s wider education and training.

• From the start of the school summer term, it is our ambition that all children will be able to access this provision for both indoor and outdoor activities as normal. This will be no earlier than 12 April and will be confirmed as part of Step 2 of the Government’s Roadmap.

COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Update

I have received this update today on the Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment programme nationally. In Wokingham, the programme is proceeding on schedule and constituents should wait to be contacted about when they will receive the vaccine.

Dear John,

We are writing to you to update you on the latest important developments on our deployment of COVID-19 vaccines.

We are delighted that by the end of 1 February, 9,646,715 people in the UK have been given their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. We have now vaccinated almost 9 in 10 over 80s.

We set the ambitious target of offering a vaccine to all eligible elderly care home residents and by the end of January we met that target. This is an incredibly important step in the fight against this terrible virus. Elderly care home residents were rightly prioritised because they are the most at risk and we have done everything we can to protect them.

There are a small number of care homes who have not been able to get vaccinated due to an outbreak, but all elderly care homes where it is clinically appropriate have now been offered the first dose of the vaccine.

This is the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history. It has been a huge national effort, bringing together the NHS family, primary care networks, hospitals and the tens of thousands of amazing volunteers.

Looking ahead, our vaccine supply and scheduled deliveries mean we are on track to offer vaccinations to all those in JCVI priority cohorts 1-4 by 15 February. While meeting this target is a challenge, we are on track to meet it.

The latest statistical release for England can be found at the link below, and we are committed to publishing more granular data, as soon as is feasibly possible.
https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/covid-19-vaccinations/

Despite this success we know our NHS continues to be under serious pressure. So, it is vital that we all continue to follow the rules: stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.

Yours ever,
MATT HANCOCK
NADHIM ZAHAWI

Vaccinations

I am receiving a  number of enquiries about why someone has not yet been vaccinated, along with examples of others of a similar age who have.

The local health service is well advanced with its vaccination programme and thinks it will hit the government targets. GPs say they will be sending out invitations to receive the vaccine to all those entitled, but there will of course be some who are vaccinated sooner and some later within the timetable set out given the large numbers involved. The aim of the local NHS is to use all the vaccine made available each day with stated appointments for those in the priority categories . I think it best that we let the NHS get on with it, as too many enquiries or complaints will add pressure when they need to put all their efforts into this large programme of  vaccination.

The first four categories currently being invited in order are:

1 Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
2 All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
3 All those 75 years of age and over
4 All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (not including pregnant women and those under 16 years of age)

 

 

A Vaccination Update From The Wokingham Town Centre General Practices

A fortnight is a long time in a vaccination campaign…

Wokingham Town Centre’s Covid-19 vaccination programme is being delivered by the four practices that comprise East Wokingham Primary Care Network, namely: Woosehill Medical Centre, New Wokingham Road Surgery, Burma Hills Surgery and Wokingham Medical Centre. The doctors and staff of these practices have vaccinated around 2600 patients at the Bradbury Centre, Wokingham during the course of the last fortnight. In addition, we’ve vaccinated virtually all residents and staff in our local older adult care homes, meaning that a total of nearly 3000 vaccinations have been performed in the opening two weeks of our vaccination programme. Furthermore, we expect to vaccinate another 2000 residents over the next few days as we receive more vaccine supply.

The importance of these numbers cannot be overstated as they represent almost all of the over 80-year olds and almost all of the older adult care home residents in East Wokingham Primary Care Network. NHS England has rightly prioritised this group of citizens as they have substantially higher complication and death rates from Covid-19 and it has been a real pleasure to catch up with ‘old friends’ on vaccination days.

From a practical and logistical perspective, we are particularly pleased that the vaccination effort has been achieved without any queues at the Bradbury Centre and while maintaining strict social distancing and infection control measures. We have been ably assisted by the Wokingham Volunteer Centre and the Wokingham Lions who have provided a seemingly limitless supply of volunteers who have braved the cold and rain in order to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens are vaccinated safely and efficiently.

We’ve been made aware of various misunderstandings that are being perpetuated on local social media and it may help residents’ anxieties if some of these are clarified:

1. Some Primary Care Networks – and therefore some practices – started vaccinated before others. The order in which practices started vaccinating was not down to the practices themselves but largely as a result of guidance from NHS England. It’s hopefully fairly obvious that vaccinating everyone nationally – simultaneously – might have problematic consequences were there to be widespread side effects.

2. The pace of vaccinating is dictated by vaccine supply and is not in the gift of practices. The vaccine supply is currently a little erratic and – we understand – is being actively managed by NHS England to ensure all regions have consistent supply. Please be assured that we are vaccinating as fast as we are receiving vaccine deliveries. If we only receive 400 doses, we can only vaccinate 400 people.

3. Practices are delivering vaccines in age cohorts that are determined by NHS England. These cohorts reflect the need to vaccinate the most at-risk citizens first. The practices will contact everyone in cohort order, so please, please, please do not petition your practice to state that you have a special case – all you do is prevent our staff from doing their jobs.

4. Your practice is delivering the vaccination programme while simultaneously trying to maintain some degree of normal service – and often while having staff self-isolating. Vaccinating tens of thousands of our patients means that staff will be diverted from normal activities inevitably. Practices don’t have access to a multitude of spare doctors and staff that can be parachuted in to assist at short notice – and therefore a reduction in non-clinical and clinical staff at your practice on vaccination days is inevitable. Despite our best efforts this may mean that it takes a little longer to answer the phone and it may mean that there is a delay in securing your desired appointment. So, please be patient with us as we try to deliver one of the most ambitious global vaccination programmes ever.

Finally, we have been humbled by the gratitude that many of you have shown. We have received countless messages of thanks and many of you have commented on how well-organised the Bradbury Centre operation has been. We are proud to be involved in the Covid-19 vaccination programme and the appreciation of our community means a great deal to us – thank you.

Dr Vipan Bhardwaj
Clinical Director, East Wokingham Primary Care Network

A vaccination update from West Berkshire

The vaccination programme is being delivered by the NHS but we retain a keen interest in how the roll out is progressing locally. We were pleased to be joined at Monday’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board Dr Abid Irfan from the Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group and to hear his update on the progress made so far.

We know what residents are most interested in is what is happening in their community – and when they and those they care about will get their doses.

Whilst there is monumental effort by the NHS nationally to distribute the vaccine, much of the hard work to get doses to residents is being done by local GP surgeries. They have been working collaboratively to set up local vaccination centres which they are running together, and with the support of our local Clinical Commissioning Group.

There are two local vaccination centres; one in Pangbourne, involving three GP local surgeries, and one in Newbury which is a larger site covering nine individual GPs surgeries. Until the end of January they will be vaccinating anyone over 80 as well as frontline health workers and social care workers. From there they will move on to the over-75s, and then the over 70s and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

GP surgeries have worked really hard to get these vaccination centres up and running as quickly as possible. It has been great to read the praise for the centre staff from patients grateful to have received their vaccine. Although vaccinations are being delivered as quickly as possible it will take time to get to everyone – please be patient and wait for your GP to contact you about making an appointment.

The speed at which our NHS partners are working and the complexity in arranging a national vaccination programme means that along the way they will experience some logistical difficulties. This week Newbury Racecourse has come in for a little criticism for not allowing vaccinations to continue at their site on race days. The reality is that it would be challenging for the site to operate seven day a week due to the vaccine distribution process. GPs were aware of these operational issues before setting up the centre and they did so confident that they would still be able to reach their targets within timelines – even without doing on the odd few days.

Speaking of the vaccination centre, we have received several enquiries asking whether more trains can stop at the Newbury Racecourse station. We’ve asked the question of GWR, and are pleased to say that they have agreed to put on more trains. It will take a couple of weeks to implement, but we’re grateful to them for their flexibility and delighted that local residents will have more sustainable travel options when journeying to get their vaccination.

Elsewhere we are ploughing on with our plans for new community testing facilities in the district. We are close to agreeing our first testing site for Newbury which should open next month and will allow testing for critical and key workers, as well as people involved in the management of local outbreaks. There will be a phased approach to those identified for testing and the relevant cohorts will be invited to join the testing programme over a series of weeks. Once that is up and running we will then be looking at additional sites in the east and west of the district, and potentially a mobile unit too. Testing to identify asymptomatic Covid carriers is important in managing the outbreak, and a potential release of the restrictions so we are working to get these open as quickly as we can. We’ll keep you updated on this as our plans progress.

Away from the pandemic response, business as usual continues and this week we were thrilled to announce this year’s Community Champion Awards. We haven’t been able to do an awards ceremony this year but it shouldn’t take anything away from this year’s winners with the standard as high as ever. This year we introduced special categories in relation to coronavirus, in addition to our usual categories and it allowed us to recognise a broad spectrum of community-minded activities this year. There are far too many to mention here but do please take a look at the website and read about the incredible winners we’ve had this year.

We’re continuing to look beyond the immediate demands of the pandemic to plan for the future and we have a number of important consultations closing in the next few weeks. These include the Newbury Town Centre Masterplan Study (which closes on 31 January), Local Plan Review 2037 (closes on 5 February) and the Minerals and Waste Plan (closes on 15 February). We have also started a consultation this week on our proposal for a new sports ground at Newbury Rugby Club. Each one is really important in helping us take into account local views as we look at how the district develops in the coming years. Whilst we all find ourselves confined to our homes please take a time to look at these documents and tell us what you think.

•For more information about vaccinations, including the number of people vaccinated as we receive the data, visit: https://info.westberks.gov.uk/covid-vaccination

•To find out more about the Community Champion Awards visit https://info.westberks.gov.uk/awardwinners

Yours sincerely,
Lynne Doherty
Leader of the Council

Nick Carter
Chief Executive

Berkshire West CCG Covid Vaccination Update

Twelve Covid vaccination sites covering the whole of Berkshire West are now up and running. There is a phased approach from 21 December.

Please do not call the GPs surgeries or hospitals directly, you will receive notification from the NHS when it is your turn to come for an appointment.

Name of PCN Name of site Site address Practices participating at this site
Tilehurst PCN Tilehurst Village Surgery Tilehurst Village Surgery, 92 Westwood Road, Reading, RG31 5PP Westwood Road Surgery, Tilehurst Village Surgery, Grovelands Medical Centre
Wokingham North PCN (2) Wargrave Surgery Wargrave Surgery Victoria Road, RG10 8BP Wargrave Practice, Woodley Centre Surgery, Parkside Family Practice, Loddon Vale Practice & Twyford
Wokingham South PCN Swallowfield Surgery / Swallowfield Village Hall Swallowfield Medical Practice, The Street, Swallowfield, RG7 1QY Swallowfield Medical Practice & Finchampstead
Wokingham North PCN (1) Woodley Centre Surgery Woodley Centre Surgery, 1st Floor, 6 Headley Road, Woodley, Reading, Berkshire, RG5 4JA Wargrave Practice, Woodley Centre Surgery, Parkside Family Practice, Loddon Vale Practice & Twyford
Reading West PCN Circuit Lane Surgery 53 Circuit Lane, Reading RG30 3AN Western Elms & Circuit Lane Surgeries, Tilehurst Surgery Partnership
University PCN University Medical Centre 9 Northcourt Avenue , Reading , RG2 7HE University Medical Group
West Reading Villages Boathouse Surgery / Rosewood Hall The Boathouse Surgery, Whitchurch Road, Pangbourne, Reading, RG8 7DP Pangbourne, Chapel Row , Mortimer & Theale
Earley Plus PCN Chalfont Surgery / Salvation Army Hall Chalfont Surgery, Chalfont Close, Lower Earley, Reading, RG6 5HZ Brookside Group Practice & Wilderness Road Surgery
Wokingham East PCN Wokingham Medical Centre 23 Rose Street, Wokingham, RG40 1XS Wokingham Medical Centre, Woosehill Medical Centre, Burma Hills, New Wokingham Rd Surgery
Reading Central PCN & Whitley PCN Eldon Square Surgery / Garden Hall 9, Eldon Square, Reading, RG1 4DT Abbey Medical Centre, Chatham Street surgery, Eldon Road Surgery, Pembroke Surgery, Russell Street Surgery, Reading Walk-In-Centre, Longbarn Lane, South Rdg & Shinfield Medical Practice, Milman & Kennet Surgeries, London Street Surgery, Melrose Surgery
Caversham PCN Emmer Green Surgery 4 St Barnabas Road, Emmer Green, Reading RG4 8RA Balmore Park & Emmer Green Surgery
A34 PCN, WEST BERKSHIRE RURAL PCN & KENNET PCN Newbury Racecourse Racecourse Rd, Newbury RG14 7NZ Eastfield House, Strawberry Hill MC, The Downland Practice, Burdwood Surgery, Falkland Surgery, Hungerford Surgery, Kintbury & Woolton Hill Surgery, Lambourn Surgery & Thatcham HC

Wokingham Hospital Hub – started 14.12.20
Royal Berkshire Hospital Hub – started 4.1.21

National free school meals voucher scheme opens to orders

I have been notified by the Government that the national free school meals voucher scheme has opened to orders. Schools can begin ordering free school meal vouchers for eligible pupils from today, adding to the support available for disadvantaged families.

An online service for schools, the scheme allows schools to place orders for supermarket gift cards on behalf of parents and carers whose children are eligible for free school meals.

The vouchers are worth £15 a week per child and families can receive codes by email to redeem themselves, or as a gift card provided by post, collection or delivery to families without internet access.

In addition to the national scheme, schools can continue providing free meals to eligible pupils via lunch parcels, through catering suppliers, or via locally arranged solutions. This might include vouchers for a local shop or supermarket not currently included in the national scheme.

The Department for Education continues to work with LACA, the body representing school caterers to ensure lunch parcels and meals all meet high standards. Guidance developed by LACA and Public Health England is being updated to reflect the additional funding that has been provided to support schools and school caterers in following this approach.

You can read more about the scheme at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/national-free-school-meals-voucher-scheme-opens-to-orders

Roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine in Berkshire

I have received this update on the vaccine programme from the Berkshire West Integrated Partnership:

It’s the biggest mass vaccination programme in the history of the NHS – and in Berkshire West the PPG groups have played a key role supporting the roll out of the Covid vaccine.

The PPGs’ tireless work has meant this highly complex vaccination programme has been running smoothly since it started in December and that thousands of vulnerable people have received the ground breaking Pfizer vaccine.

The vaccine has undergone rigorous scientific assessments trials to guarantee it is safe, effective and of a high quality and clinical trials have also been carried out on up to 50,000 people across the world aged between 18 to 84.

At the time of going to press PCNs across Wokingham North and South, Tilehurst, University, West Reading Villages and Reading West have started delivering the vaccine. GPs have identified suitable sites within their PCNs to administer the vaccinations, initially to patients over 80 and frontline health and care workers. The programme will be rolled out to other groups* over the next few months.

People are asked not to contact their GP surgery so that their practice team can focus on arranging the vaccinations and continue providing day-to-day support for all of their registered patients. You will be contacted when it is your turn to receive the vaccine.

Dr James Kennedy, Joint Clinical Director of the Wokingham North PCN, and a GP at Wargrave surgery said: “This is the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history and, thanks to some truly outstanding work done by our clinicians, support staff, PPG members and community volunteers, the roll out in our area has been achieved in a smooth and timely way.

“Many of the first patients we vaccinated hadn’t left their homes for months and had extremely limited contact with other people, so for them it was a huge achievement to attend for their appointment. Their spirit and determination to get to our site was really remarkable. And many of them were very grateful for the way all our teams – the clinicians, surgery staff and volunteers – had rallied round to deliver the vaccine,” he said.

Tony Lloyd, Chair of the Wokingham Area PPG Forum and Wargrave Surgery PPG member said “our team was led by Judith Stephenson-Hodges who liaised with practice staff, organised volunteer rotas and attended on all three days for the delivery of the first dose of the vaccines. We managed to vaccinate people at a rate of about 60 an hour in a very organised and safe way. This involved guiding them and their carers to be registered prior to assembling them in groups of five. From there a PPG member escorted them to the main surgery entrance for temperature checks prior to vaccination. Once they had received the vaccine, a volunteer and PPG member then escorted them to the observation lounge where they were asked to wait for 15 minutes before being discharged and escorted back to their cars.

“The system worked very well, thanks to the team work of everyone involved, and I think highlights the value PPGs bring to their surgeries,” he added.

One of the Wargrave patients said: “We were happy to come for this vaccination. We wanted to show to others that it’s safe and well run, so they will feel comfortable to come for the jab as well.”

Over in Swallowfield, PPG representatives were out in force, directing traffic, accompanying patients and helping to oversee the booking-in systems.

Speaking on the first day, Finchampstead Dr Jane Spurgeon: “I can honestly say this morning was one of the highlights of my career, such a lovely experience both team wise and patient wise. Thank you so much to everyone who played their part in delivering this. It was so exciting to think we’re all involved in a little bit of ‘making history’.

And volunteers were also out in force to guide and advise patients from Pangbourne’s Boathouse Surgery and Chapel Row Surgery as they attended for their appointments.

Dr Abid Irfan, Chair of Berkshire West CCG said: “Whilst the vaccine offers our best defence against the virus, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t mean we can start to relax our attention to the hands, face, space regulations. I’d urge everyone to continue doing everything they can to comply with the Government’s rules and play their part in helping to keep themselves and their families safe.”

*The full list of groups to be prioritised for the vaccination is:

  • Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  • All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
  • All those 75 years of age and over
  • All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
  • All those 65 years of age and over. All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
  • All those 60 years of age and over
  • All those 55 years of age and over
  • All those 50 years of age and over

The vaccination is not recommended for some people:

  • Anyone with a history of severe reactions or allergies
  • Children (with some exceptions). The vaccine hasn’t been tested in younger children yet
  • Pregnant women. The vaccines have not yet been tested on pregnant women so this highly precautionary approach is being taken. Women should also not be vaccinated if they are planning a pregnancy within three months of the first dose. If a woman becomes pregnant between her first and second dose of the vaccination, then the second dose will be postponed until completion of the pregnancy.

Tier 4 and school openings

During a very busy and long day yesterday I joined on line conference calls with Health and Education Ministers and their senior officials to tackle issues about the pandemic response locally.

I was assured that computers will continue to be made available for on line at home learning where needed by qualifying families. Many have been supplied and more will be coming, as it is important that where an on line education is offered all have access to it.

Ministers confirmed that they do wish exams to go ahead this summer, with appropriate adjustments by Examining boards to take account of some pandemic disruption to normal learning. Year groups most affected by public exams will return soonest to school in January.

Ministers recognised that late changes to school opening dates and other arrangements are not ideal, but pointed out there has been a rapid acceleration in the spread of the virus and changes in NHS advice which has required some changes.

The NHS experts insisted that the only thing we can do prior to greater roll out of the vaccines is to cut down drastically on social contacts, other than those essential to work, food buying and other necessities. They were particularly worried about New Year celebrations.

I have not been notified of any worries about the way our local NHS is coping, and send my renewed thanks to all those NHS staff who are working hard to handle CV 19 cases.

Christmas Greetings 2020

This is the second version of my Christmas message, as there has been such a fundamental change in the government’s approach in the last few days. The rapid escalation of Wokingham, West Berkshire and much of London and the south east into Tier 3 to be followed almost immediately by a further move to a new Tier 4 means many of us have very few options this Christmas. I will now work on over the holiday period.My planned little break at a local hotel to enjoy someone else’s cooking for a change and a visit to family has gone. I will press the government for better compensation for people and businesses stopped from working, and for better ways of managing the NHS and limiting the spread of the infection.

Like many people I put up my tree and decorations early this year, as we all need some colour, light and hope in what has been a worrying year, darkened by the pandemic. I spend so much more of my days at home talking to you all through email, conference calls and my website rather than dropping by in person. I find it is uplifting to remember freer times at Christmas through the decorations and an occasional background of great Christmas music. It is a pleasant punctuation of a busy working day to add something to the tally of cards or the range of Christmas ornaments. I find it brings me both memories of happy Wokingham Christmases past, and hopes of happy Christmases to come post covid.

I am also more than ever conscious that there are some who have been isolated too much and are fighting loneliness as they seek to shield themselves from the virus. Where we know of people on their own  it will mean the world to them if we pick up the phone, take to the zoom or find any other safe way to get in touch. Many extended families have contacted each other more during these long days of lockdown, teaching young and old the joys of smartphones, pads and laptop led video chats. Grandparents have heard their grandchildren sing over zoom and seen them dance through their smartphone. On line and hybrid shops will do a good job and roaring trade this Christmas delivering presents around the country, with relatives keen to see reactions when they are opened from their separate homes.

Most have done their bit to control the virus and to keep their friends and families together. Parents have had  more time at home with their children where they have been working from home themselves .I think many will find a way to relax and to enjoy some of the features of a normal Christmas within  the new legal restraints. We owe it to each other to capture the Christmas spirit in an unusual anti covid 19 style bottle.

I wish to say a big thank you to heroes and heroines of the CV 19 crisis, to all those who did go out to work to help the rest of us. There were those who had to  keep the power  and the broadband running, to grow and deliver our food, to care for those in hospital and care homes who did have this very contagious disease, to equip and train the nation in the skills needed to live with lock down and to deliver all the things we needed. There are countless unsung hard working people who have served us well during this constrained year. I hope like me you have sought to use local self employed and small business where possible, as many of them have had tough times. Christmas is a good time to say thank you. The words matter a lot. Cards or presents can embellish where appropriate.

I wish you and yours the best possible Christmas. For a young child this is an especially magic time. CV 19 should not come in the way of a child’s joy, anticipation and excitement about presents, Christmas food and the family atmosphere that surrounds it. So ban all talk of covid and politics from Thursday, wrap up the presents, put on the lights, prepare the feast and let Christmas begin. You will have fewer people in your home to celebrate, so get on the phone or zoom to share experiences with those you wanted to be with you. We all want our children and grandchildren to have happy memories of Christmas 2020. Many of us will still enjoy some of the childhood feelings as we spend the day with those we care most about, or find a way to talk to them where they are.