First published in The Felixstowe Flyer, January 2021.

Our hope for 2021

The beaming smile of 90 year old Margaret Keenan, the first person to receive a vaccine against the Covid-19 virus, was widely publicised. It was the sign of hope that we have all been looking for. A wonderful Christmas present for so many who had been self-isolating, who had been careful when out shopping, who hadn’t seen family and friends to hug for so long. She said “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19. It is the best birthday present I could have wished for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.”

The UK’s health service was the first in the world to start rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine which proved to be 95% effective in trials. NHS England’s Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens, called the new vaccine programme a “remarkable achievement”. He said: “Less than a year after the first case of this new disease was diagnosed, the NHS has now delivered the first clinically approved Covid-19 vaccination. That is a remarkable achievement.”

Ms Parsons, the NHS nurse who administered the vaccine, said: “It’s a huge honour to be the first person in the country to deliver a Covid-19 jab to a patient. I am just glad that I am able to play a part in this historic day. The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the NHS but now it feels there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

PPE Beach Litter

Discarded face masks and gloves were found on 30% of British beaches in the Autumn Beach Clean by the Marine Conservation Society. They were also found in 69% of inland litter picks. Single-use items like these pose a threat to wildlife on land and sea. However, the most common items found were still plastic take-away cup lids and wet wipes.

Permanent rise in Universal Credit

Current plans expect the increase of £20 per week in Universal Credit to end in April. Years of cuts have left the UK’s welfare system unfit for purpose in normal times with many enduring real hardship, made worse by the six weeks’ wait. There has been a big rise in the use of foodbanks. Many low earners are in the hospitality sector which has suffered big hits in redundancies. An excellent suggestion is to make the £20 increase permanent.

Call for enquiry into Government contracts

There are calls for an enquiry into the way Government contracts are being given out during the Covid-19 pandemic. In one instance the Government has awarded a £347 million contract for testing to a private helathcare company – Randox – whose testing kits had to be recalled earlier in 2020 for concerns about contamination. Other companies were not invited to bid. Concerns were raised as a Conservative MP is paid £100,000 a year to act as a consultant for this firm. An inquiry into the wider expenditure of public money is being called for. There are instances raised by the National Audit Office where public money has gone to firms without there being public bids which means there is a lack of transparency. They consider that there are standards that the public sector will always need to apply if it is to maintain public trust.

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