This article was written by Damian and published in this week's Herald editions and Petersfield Post:
"By the end of last week, more than 80 million vaccines had been administered across the UK, through the largest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history.
That means close to 87 per cent of the adult population have received a first dose, and 65 per cent of all adults have been double vaccinated.
This includes more than half of young people aged 18 to 24 in England who have received a first dose - just three weeks after the programme was opened to this age group.
It is this extraordinary effort that has enabled our move to Step 4 of the Roadmap next Monday; the final stage in easing national restrictions. We will see the lifting of all legal constraints, and the lifting of all social distancing measures, enabling individuals and businesses to resume life that is close to the normality of pre-covid times.
Significantly, the move to Step 4 is about living with the virus and managing the risks. Businesses and large events will be encouraged to use the NHS Covid Pass in high risk settings, and there will of course still be controls in place for those heading abroad and for people travelling here from other countries.
The clear advice is for everyone to be cautious in the steps they take to protect themselves and to protect others.
This means that when mixing with people from outside your household, and particularly when indoors or on public transport, keeping some distance or wearing a mask makes good sense. And as we head towards the autumn, and the expectation that we will see a rise in flu and respiratory illnesses, keeping some of the hygiene habits we’ve adopted during the pandemic will certainly make a difference.
Washing hands more often, covering our mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing, or wearing a facemask. These are all simple things we can do to help reduce the spread of infections, and particularly when we’re close to people who are more vulnerable.
Above all, get tested if you have symptoms, isolate if you are positive, and get both doses of the vaccination when offered the opportunity.
Although we cannot eliminate all of the risks associated with a rise in covid cases, new data published last week shows for the first time that most people who are clinically vulnerable to covid still receive high levels of protection after 2 doses of vaccine.
This is extremely important for the estimated one million people in at-risk groups, with vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease providing around 60 percent protection after one dose, which increases to 93 per cent with a second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech jab and 78 per cent with AstraZeneca.
Further data suggesting that for those who are immunosuppressed, vaccine effectiveness increases to 74 per cent after a second dose, and the JCVI has advised that those living with immunosuppressed adults should be prioritised for vaccination.
For the planned booster programme in the autumn, the JCVI has also recommended that immunosuppressed adults and their household contacts should be among the first to be offered a third dose of vaccine.
But with more personal freedoms comes more personal responsibility, and the need for all of us to think about the choices we make, the risks we take and the need to consider how those decisions impact on those around us.
There is no ideal time to make this move, and I know from correspondence I have received that people have some trepidation about moving to this stage now.
The review of the four tests indicates that easing the measures during the summer and school holidays will help to avoid the peak hitting the NHS during the autumn, when other pressures on health services are already building.
There will I’m sure be more challenges ahead, and possibly more difficult decisions to make, but restoring our liberties is an important milestone and one we can all enjoy, albeit cautiously."