Hastings and Rye’s MP Sally-Ann Hart reflects on all that has happened to us as individuals and communities in the last 12 months.
Like many people on the March 23rd last year I was sitting with my family waiting for the Prime Minister to appear on our TV screens at 8pm with the latest update on Coronavirus. Then a few minutes after eight we heard those shocking words,
“From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction: You must stay at home.”
That short and direct sentence then changed our lives immeasurably. Nobody would have thought then that we would still be in some form of lockdown a year later – but we are – and today we have an opportunity as a community, as a nation, to reflect and remember.
It has been a year of immense sadness, struggle and stress for so many individuals and families. Across Hastings and Rother, since the pandemic began, over 11,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19, of which over 2,000 ended up needing the excellent care of our NHS nurses and doctors, but sadly 651 people lost their lives.
The scale of the impact that Coronavirus has had on our communities is hard to process, and each one of those 651 deaths is an individual lost, leaving behind a grieving family and today I want to take moment to remember them all and send my deepest condolences to their families and loved ones.
I also want to take this opportunity to highlight the glimmers of hope that have sprung up across our communities in the last year – from the compassion and care of our NHS and social care workers; to the ingenuity and dynamism of local businesses; to the dedication and drive of our teachers and school support staff; to the selflessness and generosity of local volunteers helping the elderly and vulnerable.
Throughout this pandemic I have been inspired by the acts of kindness and altruism shown by total strangers towards one another as we all tried so hard to ensure we pulled together to get through the pandemic. I want to send my thanks to everyone who has played a role in our battle against the virus and who has sacrificed so much. Each and every one embodies the spirit and determination we all saw as a nation in Captain Sir Tom Moore – that willingness to keep going, supporting one another and never losing faith that one day things will be better.
Well, now as the vaccine rollout continues at a pace, hitting nearly 30m first doses being delivered, we can see the light shining brightly at the end of the tunnel.
Infection rates have come right down, pressure on our local hospitals is easing and deaths rates continue to fall. The vaccines are working and they are safe. It was never certain a year ago that an effective and safe vaccine would be developed, but with the genius of our scientists and commitment from the Government and pharmaceutical companies, we are seeing several effective vaccines now being used around the globe.
We waited on the science to pull us out of this pandemic, and the scientists have delivered. But ultimately, what stands out for me in this last year is the sacrifice every single person has made, day in and day out, to help get this country through these dark times.
By staying at home, not seeing your loved ones, closing your businesses and not sending your children to school – all of these acts are individually extremely difficult to do, and taken together they required a resolve and resilience this country has not needed for many decades. Across our nation, and especially here in Hastings and Rye, that resilience was on show every single day and it has filled me with a confidence and conviction that through all the dark moments of the last year, we as a community will come out of this stronger and more united than ever before.
I started with the shattering words from the Prime Minister a year ago today as we entered the first lockdown and I now want to finish with the words of her Majesty The Queen, who on April 5th 2020 said,
“We will succeed, and that success will belong to every one of us. We should take comfort, that while we still have more to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again.”
These words remain true now as they did almost a year ago. Back then the path seemed uncertain and scary, but today we see the end is now in sight, and the success that has brought us to this point can be shared with us all in Hastings and Rye, as we have shown remarkable spirit and will to do all that is necessary to battle this awful virus.
In the months to come we will have the opportunity to once again meet with families and friends, and to come together, as we are today, to reflect and remember.