This week’s news that a vaccine has been shown to be 90% effective against Coronavirus is significant and offers a ray of hope in a dark winter.
Our community has been through so much and I hope that this news offers the prospect of a much brighter future.
I also believe it is important to thank our NHS and care staff, key workers, volunteers and indeed the community as a whole, for their bravery and determination at this difficult time.
However, it is important to remember that while the news is very encouraging, there are still a series of hurdles to overcome.
While some of these are likely to be difficult, I believe they are not insurmountable.
We need to continue to focus on making steady progress in a difficult situation.
The first hurdle relate to the effectiveness of the vaccine, and other vaccines.
While trials show it works in individual people, we will not know how effective the first vaccine is at stopping transmission until there has been a major programme of vaccination.
There is also a huge logistical challenge in delivering a vaccination programme for the whole of the UK population in just a few months.
I am pleased that the Government has started to plan this programme and I hope they will learn from the failures of their track and trace programme and manage the vaccination more effectively.
Ministers need to use the full resources of local councils, which understand their areas, and also the skills of the NHS and other parts of the public sector, including the forces, rather than trying to build a new organisation by relying on an outsourcing company.
The Government must also send out a clear message at this time.
While the vaccine is very good news, we still need to maintain social distancing to reduce the spread of the virus and it is important that people continue to follow the current lock down to reduce transmission. This is difficult, but it is very important.
It is also important to remember the economic and social consequences of the pandemic and I am calling for more support for groups like vulnerable people and families who are struggling after losing their jobs.
I was pleased to be able to help deliver food to families during the recent half term and the Government’s decision to help families on free school meals during the Christmas Holiday is a step forward.
However, this has not solved the problem of parents and other adults struggling to make ends meet and much more help is needed.
Thanks to the incredible efforts of NHS and care staff and key workers and volunteers, and by working together I believe local communities in Berkshire can get through this difficult time.
We can see light at the end of the tunnel. However, better leadership and further help and encouragement from the Government would make a significant difference.
Matt Rodda is the MP for Reading East