By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
AT last, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but there can still be no cause for complacency no matter what.
We have managed to keep COVID rates in the Bay through hard work and diligence, and if we get it wrong this time, we know what the consequences will be.
We have seen too many people suffer as a result of this terrible virus, both directly through illness and death but also with mental health issues, economic meltdown and financial hardship.
It is important, as we prepare to relax the rules over a four-month period (all being well), that we remember the people who will not be coming out of this crisis at all – the 141 of our friends, neighbours and relatives who have died as a result.
But we do have something to look forward to as the result of an unprecedented vaccine programme that has been rolling out across the Bay and across the whole of the country.
To date nearly 18 million jabs have been delivered with tens of thousands of those being administered at the Riviera Centre in Torquay and the Horizon centre at the Torbay Hospital.
In some areas of some of our towns, many more older people have had the jab than not and the ages of the people now receiving their jabs is falling every day as the programme targets younger people.
New statistics show that even after the first jab, there is between 70 and 85% less chance of you being hospitalised if you are still unlucky enough to get the virus. That is shown to increase after the second injection.
Unlike at the end of previous lockdowns we have something concrete to look forward to – a phased return to something of normality, but we will still be a long way from returning to the lives we lived before all this started a year ago.
For some it will mean an end to home schooling and all the pressures that brings as children return to school on March 8th – a hugely important step on so many different levels.
From the same date (just two weeks away), we will also be able to meet one other person outdoors to sit and have a chat on a park bench or enjoy a take way coffee together.
For a lot of us, the next significant date in the calendar is still more than a month away (March 29th) when, if everything goes to plan, we will be able once again follow the rule of six from two households whilst outdoors.
However, it will not be until the effects of that return have been monitored and analysed that non-essential retail will re-open on April 12th with shops, hairdressers, and beauty salons once again being able to greet their loyal customers.
Pubs and restaurants will also re-open, albeit serving food and drink outside, so we will have to hope for better weather by then because it will not be until May 17th that they will be allowed to serve indoors again.
June 21st is the target date for a relaxation of all legal limits on social contact though it should be noted there a a lot of ifs and buts along the way and we should not lose sight of the long the long term effects and the damage already done by this crisis.
With that in mind, the Helpline on 01803 446022 will be available throughout and beyond because the issues mentioned earlier including mental health, and financial hardship, will be with us for years to come and we will be there for them whatever the problem – one call, that’s all.
And the Torbay Food Alliance, which is already delivering 10,000 meals a week to households who are struggling across the Bay expect things to get worse before they get better.
People have found this lockdown 3 harder than the previous two, which could be because they have been worn down by the first two or simply because they are locked down in what is regarded by many as the most miserable part of the year anyway.
Don’t plan to throw away your mask, you may well still need it and we must all remain cautious until we know for sure that we have beaten this. And the hugs that so many of us yearn for, remain for now, something that we can only dream about.