It feels as if life is improving this week. The daylight hours are getting longer, the sun has been shining and the rollout of the vaccination programme appears to be going well, with reports that more than 20 million people have had their first jab and that this is having a significant impact in terms of reducing both the numbers being admitted to hospital and more importantly, the number of deaths. As I sat down to write this column the post arrived and brought a letter inviting me to book my first jab, so hopefully by next week this will have taken place and I will be able to say how it went and whether I experienced any side effects.
It is almost a year now since the first lockdown began and the Prime Minister has published what he describes as the roadmap for the release from lockdown. This is a staged approach, which makes sense. Starting on the 8th March when schools return and we are able to meet one person from outside of our household outdoors. The roadmap (which can be found at www.gov.uk) then publishes the earliest dates for further changes, leading to a planned removal of all legal restrictions on social contact no earlier than the 21st June.
This plan brings hope of a more relaxed summer this year with the ability to enjoy more freedom, but there is no guarantee that the rollercoaster ride that we have been on for the past 12 months is over. The PM made it clear that the roadmap is not irreversible and with new variants of the virus appearing it is important that we remain cautious. As a Council we are therefore exploring what events we might be able to stage this year, which will not attract too big an audience and where we can continue to maintain a degree of social distancing. The Towner Gallery has already announced a planned reopening date of the 18th May and plans are in place for an autumn season of live theatre. All events will operate within the Government guidelines established to reduce Covid transmission and hopefully this gradual return to a pre-covid world will help us to avoid the need for any further lockdowns.