As you would expect I continue to keep a close eye on the Covid-19 infection rate in Eastbourne. This remains above the national average, but the number of new infections in the past week is now mercifully below 300. This means that from a record high level a few weeks ago, it appears that the current lockdown is having a positive impact on reducing the spread of the virus. This news, coupled with the speed that the vaccination programme is being rolled out, will I am sure be making many of us ask, ‘how much longer the restrictions will be in place?’ We are unlikely to know the answer to this before the 22nd February, which is the date that the Government have published for their next announcement on the way forward. Whatever they decide it will not be an easy decision, as it needs to balance the concerns over the economy and peoples’ mental health of staying in lockdown with the risks of lifting restrictions too soon, only to see infection rates spiral once more. If there is one thing that I am sure most of us are agreed upon, it is that we do not want to see another lockdown later in the year.
Whenever lockdown is finally lifted there will be many challenges for us to face, both as a local community and as a nation. Children have had their education severely disrupted. Many people have lost their jobs, unemployment levels are high; businesses of all sizes have closed and Government at all levels have financial challenges as they have had to borrow to make-up for lost income and to pay for the impact of Covid. Locally it will be important to do all that we can to support our local economy and I will say more about that in a future article.
This week the Government announced that the elections planned for May (in our case those for the County Council and Police and Crime Commissioner) will go ahead. Due to the pandemic, it is not currently clear just how easy this will be. Political parties have not been allowed to deliver literature recently due to the lockdown and so getting their messages across will be more difficult than usual. These elections are however important and with uncertainty over the safety of going out it could be sensible to apply for a postal vote. Anyone can do this, details of how to apply can be found at www.gov.uk/.../publications/apply-for-a-postal-vote or you can contact the electoral registration officer via the Council phone number 01323 410000 for more information. Whichever candidate you might consider voting for I would urge you to take part and vote. Democracy is a precious part of the make-up of our country, you only need to look at places where it does not exist to understand the risk of losing it.