I would like to wish all my constituents in Worcester a Merry Christmas and for a safe and happy new year.

2020 has been a year like no other and it is a source of regret and sadness for all of us that this year’s festive celebrations have been so substantially restricted. Like so many others this year I will be missing the usual chance to get together with family.

Although it is very hard that families and friends will not be able to gather as normal, it is vital that we keep the infection numbers down so Worcestershire can move into tier one as soon as possible. With the concerning update on new strains of Covid-19 which are even more contagious combined with the hope of more vaccines being approved, it is more important than ever that we take precautions to keep friends and family safe.

I cannot say thank you enough to the NHS and its staff and the care workers who have played such an unbelievable part in the fight against Covid-19. I know that for so many of them there will be no Christmas break this year. The pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges in the history of the NHS and in terms of care, professionalism and sheer hard work it has met the challenge admirably.

I would also like to pay tribute to everyone who has kept vital services in Worcester going throughout the pandemic, including teachers and head teachers, the emergency services, essential retail employees, transport services, charities and volunteers who have been vital in getting food deliveries and support to the most vulnerable people in our community.  I know how hard so many people are working over what would usually be a period of respite and I want to say thank you.

I am glad that Worcester’s infection rate is well below the national average, however, I respect the fact that there is a careful balance that needs to be struck between protecting lives and livelihoods. I know that local businesses and especially the hospitality trade are desperate to get Worcester down into tier one so they can be fully open for business and I urge people to continue to follow the guidelines over the festive period to ensure that this can happen. I am glad that whilst many areas have seen their risk rating increase, Worcestershire remains amongst the lowest in the country.

As we approach 2021, I am hopeful that we can return to a greater degree of normality as soon as it is safely possible. The rollout of the vaccination program is already well underway in Worcestershire and along with developments in mass testing, these advances provide confidence that we are approaching light at the end of the tunnel.  Next year will no doubt be full of challenges but I am hopeful they will be the challenges of how best to support the strongest possible recovery.

In closing, I would like to thank the people of Worcester for all their sacrifices this year and I wish you all a Merry Christmas.