I am sure that you will be as pleased as I was recently to see the Prime Minister unveil a roadmap to lead us out of the current Covid 19 restrictions, cautiously, but hopefully this time, irreversibly. I appreciate that our fight against this pandemic has gone on much longer than any of us expected, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your patience and for following the rules. Along with the incredible roll out of the two vaccines available, we have made great progress in recent weeks to bring down cases and hospitalisations.
As of 26th February, over 24,000 people across Halesowen & Rowley Regis have received at least one dose of a vaccine. I’m sure everyone will join me in thanking the researchers, manufacturers, distributors and NHS staff involved in the process, and of course the incredible volunteers who are giving up their own time to ensure the vaccination centres are running smoothly.
The roadmap is of course conditional on four key tests being met; the successful continuation of the vaccine programme, the effectiveness of the vaccines, the impact of infection rates on the NHS and assessment of new Variants of Concern. Nevertheless there is plenty of reason to be hopeful, and the delay of five weeks between each step give us chance to assess the data and give businesses a week’s notice before re-opening, and whilst some may have wanted the Government to move faster, I believe this is the sensible approach to take.
March 21st this year sees the census take place, a once-in-a-decade survey that helps to give the Government a picture of people and households across England and Wales. The data provided helps to inform key policy decisions by both central and local authorities on planning and the provision of public services such as healthcare, education and transport.
National censuses in the UK have taken place every ten years since 1801, with the exception of 1941, although the first formal census for England dates back to the Domesday Book in 1086. Initially established as a means for finding out how many men were eligible to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, the census has evolved from simply being a headcount exercise to gathering a vast amount of socio-economic data. Thanks to modern technology, census are now easily completable online and I would encourage each household to ensure they set time aside on March 21st to complete there’s on time.
Of course, processing the volume of data that arrives from the census is a lengthy progress and we will have to wait until next year for its findings, but I look forward to studying the key findings and seeing what they mean for our country, our region, and locally, for Halesowen & Rowley Regis.
This article first appeared in the Halesowen & Dudley News on 4th March 2021.