The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock’s ambitious target was to vaccinate 15 million people in the first four most vulnerable groups by February 15th. Job done - with more than 500,000 having had their second jab.
The next target is to vaccinate everyone over 50 as well as all at risk people aged 16 to 65 by the end of April, around 21 million people. All this as well as ensuring those in the first priority groups all get their second jab.
Lockdown is successfully bringing down the number of infections but it is the vaccine which will allow life to return to normal and I know we are all eager for that to happen.
The Prime Minister has said the Government and the scientific experts are working on a road map to take us out of lockdown which he will announce on Monday 22nd February. What we should not expect are firm dates when things will happen, everything will depend on how the virus progresses and I know there is an overwhelming support for this approach.
The only exception will be the reopening of schools. The Prime Minister has promised to give two weeks notice of a confirmed reopening date to the education establishment and, providing all the data is good, he would like that to happen on March 8th.
The rest of the economy will open up when it is safe to do so and I know many of you are, like me, looking forward to going to your local pub for a drink and a chat.
For many people, particularly in the retail trade, this last year through the pandemic has been very difficult and sadly some of you may have lost your jobs. But employment prospects locally are good and set to get even better with lots of new jobs and opportunities to retrain.
As well as our numerous established businesses, both large and small, we also have HS2 being built across our region. This has huge potential for new jobs, both during its construction and with the establishment of new businesses choosing to locate along its route.
Locally, D2N2 and neighbouring Local Enterprise Partnerships have jointly put in a bid for a Freeport. It will be a novel Freeport based around three sites; Ratcliffe on Soar power station, linked to East Midlands Airport and then linked to us by land for a Rail Head off the A50 and A38 opposite Toyota. This is an exciting project and one I am delighted to support, it will bring jobs and confirm our place as the Engine Room of the UK.
I am aware there are concerns from our local villages in South Derbyshire about possible disruption during construction of the Rail Head. I can assure them if the bid is successful, which I hope it is, I will work with the developers to minimise any disruption and ensure that local residents have a voice.
So, after such a torrid time, there is much to celebrate and much to look forward to.