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  More than any other time, Christmas is when we make that extra special effort to look out for each other, to be with and remember family and friends, and make sure those who are lonely or isolated are given support. I am so proud that in North Yorkshire we have been making this extra special effort throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. We must now redouble these endeavours. Although infection rates have been coming down in North Yorkshire they are beginning to rise again, alarmingly so, in some parts of the UK, so we have to remain vigilant and act with safety in mind.

More than anything, after the hardships of the last few months, we are longing to be with family and friends to enjoy the celebration of Christmas together. But we also know that Covid-19 has no respect for Christmas and thrives best with household mixing. Although the four devolved governments of the UK have decided today to stick with the relaxation of lockdown regulations and allow mixing between three households over Christmas between 23 and 27 December, the best gift we can give our families and friends is to be cautious, kind and careful and to do everything we can to keep each other Covid-safe. Thanks to all our hard work, infections rates have been coming down consistently in North Yorkshire, but we must remember they are still four or five times higher than they were in August, that people are still dying from it in our hospitals and there is some evidence in some areas that the pace of the reduction is slowing. So just because we can mix with three households over Christmas, does not necessarily mean we should. Now more than ever the actions and efforts of every one of us to take responsibility to keep each other safe is critical if we are to avoid a third wave in January and many more deaths.

This week in North Yorkshire we have seen the first roll-out of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in four locations across the county led by our colleagues in the NHS, with those over 80 and in care homes and care home staff being prioritised. Another site has gone live today and six sites will come on stream next week. This is great news for all of us across the county, but this is a logistically complex operation to get up and running. People need two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, so all the people being vaccinated at the moment will be called back again in three weeks’ time for their second dose. So people must be patient and maintain their vigilance about being Covid-safe in the meantime. 

A big development will come when we manage to get the Oxford vaccine, which is much more useable, can be taken to more places and administered at greater speed and at that point the whole vaccination programme will really accelerate. Until then we must do everything we can to keep Covid infection rates down as our scientific experts warn us that another surge will only serve to hamper the vital vaccination programme.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, but with a difficult few months to come first, we must brace ourselves. We will get through it together. We have achieved so much to support our communities these last few months and we must hang on to that strong performance.

So this is my opportunity to say keep going with all your efforts and, above all, to say a big thank you for everything you have done so far. This week we launch our big Thank You message to Team North Yorkshire. As Christmas approaches, this is our chance to take some time to show our appreciation to all those right across the county who have gone the extra mile to support our communities through this historically challenging period. These heroes range from key workers in the care sector to our thousands of volunteers working through our Community Support Organisations to look out for neighbours, the vulnerable and isolated and collecting medication and shopping, to our partners in the NHS, police, fire and the military, to our teachers who have kept our children educated.

A few statistics illustrate the achievement. We have distributed four million pieces of PPE to 67 sites around the county; we have issued one million facemasks and 10,000 litres of hand sanitiser; We have given advice and guidance to 77,000 people, who have contacted the county council, and have helped to facilitate 80,000 hours of volunteer support with 22,000 shopping deliveries for those in need and 22,000 befriending calls. You have all been amazing and I am so proud of my county and what you have achieved. Thank you.

Finally, I want to wish you a peaceful and happy time over the coming Christmas period but, above all, a safe time.

NYCC’s website has a dedicated area for all the latest news, see links below:

·         COVID-19 related news:

·         Devolution/Stronger Together:

Follow us on social media: @northyorkscc on Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

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