Remembrance Sunday is an important occasion in the calendar, and I had the honour to attend and lay a wreath during the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph on Whitehall.
It was great to see so many windows here in Swindon decorated with poppies and I thank everyone who has sent me pictures of their fantastic poppy display. I have created a gallery on my website where you can see all of the pictures – this can be found here: https://www.robertbuckland.co.uk/news/poppy-gallery
This has been an extraordinary year and I am glad that we were able to pause and pay our respects to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Children and families will get extra support this winter with councils given new funding to ensure vulnerable households do not go hungry or without essential items.
Building on the significant support given to the most vulnerable during the pandemic, a new £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme will be run by councils in England. This funding will allow councils to directly help the hardest-hit families and individuals, as well as provide food for children who need it over the holidays.
Local councils understand which groups need support and are best placed to ensure appropriate holiday support is provided – which is why they will be responsible for distributing the funds, rather than schools, who will continue providing meals for disadvantaged children during term-time.
I want to ensure vulnerable people feel cared for throughout this difficult period and I am pleased that Swindon Borough Council will be receiving £614,935 as part of the Conservative Government’s Covid Winter Grant Scheme. I look forward to working closely with them to ensure those who need help during this difficult time are able to get it.
On Monday the Prime Minister gave an important update on our progress towards a vaccine against Covid-19.
The Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine has been tested on over 40,000 volunteers and interim results suggest it is proving 90 per cent effective at protecting people against the virus, but we have not yet seen the full safety data.
So as the Prime Minister said, we have cleared one significant hurdle but there are several more to go before we know the vaccine can be used. However, when this vaccine is approved in this country we will be ready to start using it.
Earlier this year the Government ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for about a third of the population, since you need two doses each. That puts us towards the front of the international pack on a per capita basis – and the Prime Minister added that we have ordered over 300 million doses from five other vaccine candidates as well.
If the Pfizer vaccine passes all the rigorous safety checks and is proved to be effective then we will begin a UK-wide NHS led programme of vaccine distribution.
The Prime Minister stressed through that these are very, very early days and the biggest mistake we could make now would be to slacken our resolve at such a critical moment. Irrespective of whether there is a vaccine on the way or not we must continue to do everything possible right now to bring the R number down.
I urge everyone in Swindon and across the country to remember the basics – hands, face, space and follow the rules. That is how we can together protect our NHS, save lives and get this virus back in its box.