There is little doubt that the extraordinary success of the UK’s vaccination programme as well as the resolve of the British public complying with the national restrictions are having the desired effect on tackling the virus, with the latest Somerset seven-day-rate per 100k down to 53.9 cases; and the vaccine roll-out locally continuing apace with 44% of all adults in the South West having received their first dose (compared to 39.3% nationally).
Last week, the Prime Minister set out the much-anticipated roadmap which outlined the criteria for easing restrictions. I know some of you have been in touch wanting restrictions lifted more quickly, others more slowly, however ultimately, I believe this cautious approach is the right one. As modelling has shown, unfortunately we cannot escape the fact that lifting lockdown will likely result in more cases, hospitalisations, and deaths, but this would happen whenever lockdown is lifted. If we get the timing right however, these increases can be significantly limited, and I believe this approach will achieve this.
I continue to work to ensure our constituency gets the support needed to help it get back on its feet. I have made numerous representations to the Chancellor in respect of the needs of our local businesses in advance of the Budget this week; by now we will know the outcome. At the time of writing some welcome additional funding has been announced for the theatre/ culture sector. Having just chaired the latest Board meeting in respect of the proposed Wellington Rail station I can report sound progress and the DfT will outline next steps shortly; and my recent meeting with the National Trust confirmed that the restoration of the Wellington Monument is scheduled for May. Both these schemes were pledges I made when I first became the MP, so this is genuinely exciting.
Getting children back into school has been a top priority and I welcome that from 8 March all children and students will return to face-to-face education in schools and colleges. I recently spoke with pupils from Taunton Academy to discuss their lockdown experiences and thoughts for the future – our young people have shown huge resilience and deserve our praise and support.