I’m sure you will all be as delighted as I was to hear that we now have three working vaccines that will soon be rolled out. As difficult and grim as the last eight or so months have been, we can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. Things won’t get back to normal by Christmas – as the Prime Minister so confidently predicted a few months ago – and may still be a little unusual through the spring, but as more and more people are vaccinated and the rate of transmission is brought down, we can gradually start doing more.

I’m looking forward not just to the bigger things – holidays, parties, live events – but the little things that we all took for granted, like popping round to someone’s house to borrow something or getting into a conversation with a stranger in a shop or on public transport. Hopefully, one of the positive things that can come out of such a miserable time is a newfound appreciation for all of these little things, as well as for the precious time we spend with friends and family.

Despite all of this, we shouldn’t pretend that there won’t be difficulties ahead. Some of the consequences of this crisis – both the virus itself and the various lockdowns – will be very long-lasting. Many people’s lives have been changed as they’ve said goodbye to loved ones or lost jobs and businesses – coming out of the crisis, they will have to adjust to a new and potentially daunting reality.

Being cooped up inside more than we’d like has had an impact on both mental and physical health, which we’ll have to deal with long after the virus has gone. There is also a lot of evidence that the pandemic has widened the gap between the rich and poor. Whether that’s in mortality rates, in educational attainment or in terms of wages again it’ll take time to try to rectify these injustices.

Part of what will help us recover from the crisis here in Tameside is the same thing which has got us through it, and that’s pulling together as a community. We have seen so many people here – some of whom I’ve been delighted to present with my Citizen’s Awards – supporting each other and helping those in most need and I hope that we continue to see more of this in the months ahead so that, as a community, we can successfully face any challenges which might come our way.

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