On 19th July we took the final step on the prime minister’s roadmap out of lockdown, Step 4. As I wrote last month, it was a difficult decision to delay this moment, however, the success of the vaccine rollout, and the additional protection we have been able to provide in this extra time, means we are in a significantly safer position to lift restrictions.
There was nothing inevitable about this success. The formulation of the vaccine itself is nothing short of a miracle and a testament to the ingenuity of humanity.
Likewise, even when we had the Pfizer BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, we still had the challenge of scaling up an unprecedented vaccination programme at pace. We would be nowhere near the 83 million doses currently administered without the selfless work of our healthcare professionals, key workers and volunteers, as well as the resourcefulness of the military and civil service. To witness this first hand has been inspiring.
I have also been inspired visiting local businesses here in the constituency, and seeing the innovative measures they have taken to excel under Step 3 and to prepare for Step 4. Stratford has so much to offer, whether it is history, culture, entertainment or hospitality, and I am delighted to see this all up and running again.
I am particularly pleased to see the Royal Shakespeare Company is now hosting The Comedy of Errors in the new Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre, whose fantastic imagery and production has received national acclaim and recognition. The new garden theatre is yet another example of a town steeped in history which continues to innovate and further enrich our lives.
In the last month, I have had the pleasure of visiting several local businesses, such as the historic Garrick Inn, which has features dating back to the 1400s, and Orangemabel in Alcester. They made clear the impact Covid-19 and uncertainties around restrictions were having on their trade. Unfortunately, as many of us have seen for ourselves, the Stratford district has been the fourth hardest hit economy in the country, which is why I am delighted that hospitality, which is a crucial source of income for so many, is open for business.
I am also pleased to see the important work being undertaken by Stratford District Council to support the community in bouncing back by bidding for investment from the Levelling-Up Fund. If granted, this money will go towards essential housing and retail space, as well as, potentially, a new World Shakespeare Centre which would provide an opportunity to give a major boost to our local economy.
There is a lot to celebrate having entered Step 4 and I am sure many readers will be enjoying meals out and drinks with friends in the coming weeks and months. But it is also vital to remember that, as we move away from government dictat, we must take more personal responsibility ourselves for our health, as well as the health of our loved ones and our community. That means, if you have not already, getting the jab. It also means taking some simple precautions, such as wearing a face mask in crowded indoor spaces, washing your hands frequently, and, for those who are not exempt, self-isolating when you are asked to.
Let us continue protecting family and friends and take this next step safely together.