A very happy New Year to everyone. I imagine you were all as pleased as I was that the Prime Minister was able to decide not to introduce further restrictions over the Christmas and New Year period – I hope you all managed to enjoy a family Christmas.
As we turn to 2022, the rate of cases of Omicron is continuing to grow, with particular concern about those in the 60 years and above age group. Hospital admissions are rising, although the number of patients in mechanical ventilation beds remains stable.
Our children head back to school this week and the priority of everyone in Government is to keep education settings open for as many children as possible. I know from all the letters and emails I’ve received, how much this matters to parents and young people.
Once again there have been huge asks of teachers, childcare workers, parents, and children themselves in Brentwood and Ongar. The start of this term will be tough as we adapt to Omicron variant – but I know that our education and childcare workforce is doing an outstanding job in implementing measures that have helped to keep children and young people in face-to-face settings.
Testing remains a priority. All secondary school students will undertake one on-site test on return to help reduce transmission after a period of social mixing over the holidays.
All adults in schools are being advised to wear masks in communal areas, and from this week the Government is also recommending that face coverings should be worn by everyone in classrooms and teaching spaces in secondary schools. This is a difficult thing to do but we have to make sure as many children are in school as possible and that enough teachers are uninfected to keep schools open. The advice is short term only and will be reviewed on the 26th January, in line with the review of Plan B measures.
This is not the start to 2022 that we hoped for. But when we remember that the first vaccination was only given just over a year ago we see just how far we have come and how much worse things would be had we not had such an enormously successful vaccine procurement drive and rollout. The battle is not yet over but, thanks to our colossal collective effort, we are winning.