BLACKBURN MP Kate Hollern writes her fortnightly column for the Lancashire Telegraph...

WHEN I wrote in the Lancashire Telegraph just before Christmas the seriousness of the new variant of coronavirus was unclear.

In Blackburn the infection rate was falling while elsewhere in the country it was rising. By the new year daily cases had doubled compared to where they were a fortnight before.

Nationally we’ve seen more than 50,000 new cases of coronavirus a day. Our NHS is at breaking point and the death toll is rapidly rising. Every life lost is a tragedy and the Government’s priority must be to get this vaccination out as quickly as possible. Doing so would save lives and livelihoods.

So far 1.5 million vaccines have gone into people’s arms across the UK, and I’m pleased constituents of mine have received them, but already we’ve seen the reports of vaccination doses being delayed and appointments being cancelled as a result. The Prime Minister calls this the lumpiness and bumpiness of the rollout. I hope they are logistical teething problems and not another example of incompetence that has been a hallmark of his government.

Every week of this pandemic costs the economy £5.3 billion, the NHS £1 billion and 23,000 jobs. The longer it goes on, the more people will suffer.

The Prime Minister and Health Secretary promised that we’d be out of this pandemic by Spring. If that is to be achievable, two million people need to receive a vaccination each week. The vaccination rollout requires a national effort unlike anything seen since the Second World War. It requires nurses and doctors, the military and all the critical infrastructure at the Government’s disposal.

We need thousands more to administer the vaccination. We must vaccinate all our brilliant NHS and social care staff so the people looking after us will be well enough to do so. We need a public information campaign that tackles vaccine hesitancy and that is accessible, and we need as many vaccinations centres as close to communities as possible.

We can all play our part. The way Lancastrians got behind one another in March was brilliant. We need to keep up the esprit de corps. If you can, volunteer with the NHS to support the vaccine rollout, spend a few hours with charities, speak to friends, neighbours and relatives (in a Covid-secure way) and encourage them to take the vaccine, and only get your information from trusted sources.

We’ve got at least six tough weeks ahead, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.