It is very disappointing that Kent as a whole has been placed in Tier 3. My team and I will continue to be available to work with people and businesses most affected. I met with a Health Minister yesterday and made the case for rapid testing facilities at our local hospitals together with additional support.
Unfortunately, there has been a recent rise in infections in our local area, with very high numbers of cases in neighbouring districts, particularly Thanet. Our area moves into Tier 3 from 2nd December – and will be reviewed on 16th December – and the applicable restrictions can be found here.
But while we huddle behind hats, coats, medical masks and plastic gloves, it is the case that the world’s most brilliant minds have been working behind the scenes, making stellar progress in their pursuit of a medical miracle.
A glimmer of light is now emerging. Where just a few weeks ago we were facing a second wave with no end in sight, there is now the prospect of not one or two, but three highly effective vaccines. These vaccines represent the best chance of beating this virus and returning more fully to our active and vibrant lives.
The Government has placed the UK in an enviable position. It has secured 355 million vaccine doses through agreements with seven separate vaccine developers. This includes 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, 40 million doses from Pfizer/BioNTech and 5 million from Moderna.
All three vaccine candidates have posted highly promising results in their initial trials, going above and beyond expectations. This is an incredible feat, and a true testament to what can be achieved when scientific excellence is harnessed in pursuit of a common goal for all humanity.
Caution – and patience – is rightly urged. As the Prime Minister has made abundantly plain, this is work in progress. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has been working alongside vaccine developers, allowing safety information to be collected throughout in order to speed up the approval process. Yet the MHRA has rightly confirmed that no corners will be cut. The vaccine must be as approved to be safe before it is administered.
Whilst the hugely promising results roll in from vaccine trials, our testing regime continues to improve. The mobilisation of people and resources which has grown our daily testing capacity from 3,000 to over 500,000 in just a few short months is nothing short of remarkable.
This is now compounded by more good news regarding the rollout of rapid turnaround lateral flow testing, which provides many interesting prospects for reopening different sectors of the economy.
These incredible achievements provide us with a number of tools with which to tackle the virus head on. With these tools, we can prepare to take steps to get life back to normal, using a local testing and tracing system to complement the national one, and, in time, the rollout of a vaccine to protect those who need it most.
There is still a long road ahead of us, but I remain firmly optimistic that we should look forward with hope.