Nadhim Zahawi column: Watching Stratford punch above its weight
AT the time of writing, more than 43m doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered. I am immensely proud of the nurses, the doctors, the volunteers and, indeed, everyone who has made this phenomenal rollout possible.
After a difficult lockdown, it is fantastic to see many of our amazing local shops, hairdressers and hospitality venues opening their doors. People across Stratford want to breathe life into our high street and support the local economy. I am delighted to see such enthusiasm from our businesses to open their doors.
Seeing people out and about again, it is clear that being stuck at home has given many of us a newfound appreciation for our communities, friends and family. While we can celebrate our success and begin to enjoy socialising outside, it is more important than ever that we continue stepping up to get our vaccines when offered.
Even if you have had your first dose, you are not fully vaccinated – you will not benefit from the long-term protection the second dose provides and the risk of transmission within the community is increased.
Similarly, I know that many young people are reluctant to get their first dose because they believe they do not need them or have concerns about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Unfortunately, regardless of your age, no one is 100 per cent safe from Covid-19. Since the pandemic began we have seen many cases of young people being hospitalised, developing life-changing ailments from long Covid and, in the worst cases, passing away.
While the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has advised it is preferable for people under 30 with no underlying health conditions to be offered an alternative vaccine to AstraZeneca, they asserted the vaccine is incredibly safe. It has undoubtedly saved thousands of lives.
However, positive vaccine sentiment is 94 per cent and it is in no small part down to the extraordinary number of people getting their jabs that we are well on track on the road to recovery. The next step, Step 3, is set to begin on 17th May as things stand. This means we can socialise indoors, while following the rule of six, and once again enjoy Stratford-on-Avon’s famous hospitality.
Fundamentally, the entire community wants the Shakespeare Theatre to be open for business, the entire community wants the Giggling Squid to be serving food and we all want the Rose and Crown serving drinks again. The best way to ensure that happens is to get your vaccine, whether you are 21 or 61.
An overwhelming number of local businesses and organisations have gone above and beyond during the pandemic. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to the phenomenal work of the Studley Isolation Support Group. I am in no doubt that their volunteer work, be that shopping for those that are vulnerable or welfare check-ins, has been a lifeline to residents in uniquely challenging times.
I am also very impressed with System C, whose Stratford-based team I had the privilege of meeting on 16th April. System C is a business that has been at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 and their Stratford office has played an important role in the vaccine rollout. Lastly, I am delighted to say on 22nd April the Royal Shakespeare Company released their summer programme, which includes for the first time in their history access to rehearsals. Furthermore, the RSC announced an outdoor production of The Comedy of Errors in the new Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre in Stratford.
Time and time again, Stratford punches above its weight, whether it is the vaccine rollout or Shakespeare.