Government guidelines mean we may be unable to spend time with all those we usually see at this time of year.

 

Of course, the tragic human cost of this virus means many people face their first Christmas without a loved one.  My heart goes out to anyone who has lost family, friends and colleagues to this terrible virus.

 

 

I would also like to pay tribute to the NHS staff, care workers and keyworkers, to whom we owe so much, for fighting day in and day out to save lives and look after those in need. I recognise how hard it has been for so many people in our community living with the toughest restrictions for months.

 

I began my work as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury in a dismal economic climate back in April.

 

Managing the rapid outbreak of a new disease would have been difficult for any government. But this doesn’t justify the fact that the UK has had the sharpest recession of any G7 economy and is on course for the slowest recovery.

 

This is in part down to the Government being too slow to stop the spread of the virus,  and failing to fix the gaps in the income support packages that unfairly left out people who needed assistance.

 

I will continue to push for an economic recovery that is inclusive. Regions like ours have been neglected for too long- we need assurances that better days lie ahead.

 

Fortunately, the good news about vaccines mean we finally may be able to turn a corner on this pandemic.

 

This week, I was delighted see Sunderland’s first vaccine centre opened to distribute the Pfizer vaccine. I’d like to thank NHS staff and scientists involved in this for their incredible work

 

But we are not out of the woods yet. The vaccine will take months to be rolled out to the population. Infections of COVID-19 are now rising across the UK and a new strain of the virus, which spreads more quickly, has emerged.

 

I urge everyone to continue to keep being as cautious as they can so we can protect elderly and vulnerable loved ones especially.

 

During this crisis we’ve seen how strong our community is. We’ve pulled together to keep everyone safe, and reach out to those in need of help.

 

This Christmas, we should celebrate the resilience, kindness, and strength we’ve shown in the face of a pandemic.

 

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year.

 

This article can be read in the Sunderland Echo here.

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