Aldous Huxley wrote that the 20th century plague was not the black death, but rather the grey life. He could have been describing life under covid-19. When I was elected a year ago, I did not set out to take away freedoms, or to shut down businesses and close schools, but to save lives we have had no choice but to live much of a grey life this last year.
My priority has been to support residents and businesses locally throughout this pandemic, helping tens of thousands who have written to me. But now, my priority is making sure that I help those still in need and that we have a road out of national lockdown, which the vaccine gives us. We already have three vaccination centres in Rutland and Melton, and almost 50,000 people across our primary care networks have been vaccinated.
As we see the light at the end of the tunnel, I thank all those in Rutland and Melton who have borne the costs with such grace and selflessness over the last year—those who have helped each other under the toughest domestic conditions we have seen since the war. In particular, I wish to recognise Tim Weston and his fellow teachers and students at Oakham School, and Rutland Plastics. In the first lockdown, they made so many tens of thousands of visors that I arranged the delivery of masks to hospitals and settings all around the country.
I also wish to recognise Stuart and Holly East, who own the Old White Hart pub in Lyddington and cooked 300 meals a day for NHS staff; Tony Fowler, the local milkman who spent his breaks shopping for isolated residents; Governor Neil Thomas, who rightly received an OBE for his work, and his prison officers and staff at HMP Stocken; and, finally, our wonderful soldiers across Rutland and Melton, who ran pop-up testing sites around the east midlands. But there are so many more I wish to praise, including Clawson Kindness, Sharon Brown and Rutland Sewing. These are all people who have set about helping others without any thought for their own recognition. They are the unsung heroes of Rutland and Melton and the very best of Britain.
I also appreciate the extraordinary sacrifices of our police and our health and care staff, both formal and informal carers, and our council staff. Our healthcare workers have worked tirelessly to save lives, and I am enormously grateful, but we must also remember those who are often forgotten in our shops, our binmen and those in unseen roles. I would also like to recognise our businesses, shops and traders who have forgone profits to keep covid rates down.
Finally, I want to thank the hundreds, if not thousands, of women who have written to me asking for little more than their partners to be with them at pregnancy scans and when they give birth. I am proud to have fought for them, and I want to thank the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Prime Minister for their support on this issue. I am also pleased to have lobbied Ministers to secure the exemption for children under five from the rules on two adults meeting in public during the lockdown, because we had to ensure that the most vulnerable did not suffer most at this time. Now we must focus on returning to normality, giving people back their freedoms as soon as possible and ensuring that our recovery is as fast and equitable as possible. Thank you again to everyone in Rutland and Melton who has worked so hard to defeat the virus.