CAROLINE Ansell:

Christmas is now upon us in these challenging times. However we know this year we can be with our family and friends on the day, due in large part to our fantastic and game changing vaccine programme and this is progress. 

Omicron is giving us some cause for concern and the need for everyone to step forward and have their booster jab is urgent if we are to avoid the worst this new variant can throw at us. 

This urgency was best illustrated by the Sovereign Community Centre opening on Christmas Day to administer the jab. My thanks go to all those at Sovereign and elsewhere in Eastbourne who are manning the barricades against this virus at this time of year. Your hard work and selflessness is an inspiration. 

In the next few weeks, we will have a better understanding about how Omicron will affect the NHS and our lives.  The often cited South African experience won’t necessarily translate to the UK, not least because it’s summertime in South Africa. 

Even if omicron proves less severe than Delta, the numbers involved and the isolation period required may prove to be a supreme challenge to maintaining the workforce across multiple essential sectors. To help, the 10 day self-isolation rule will be cut to 7 days following a negative lateral flow test on days 6 and 7.         

And I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have again kept us safe and the country moving this year.  Teachers, firefighters, the police, our NHS, hospice and social care staff, the armed services, posties, shop workers, delivery drivers to name some of those who have been the bedrock keeping us safe, supplied and looked after. My thanks to you all for your commitment and service. Here in Eastbourne we also have brilliant volunteers like the RNLI, Street Pastors and the Beachy Head Chaplains doing important work alongside and they will be out as ever this Christmas time.  

I have traditionally volunteered at the Winter Night Shelter run by Eastbourne Churches in the Christmas holidays but Covid has stopped this dormitory-style provision. The council will be offering emergency accommodation on those nights where it is anticipated temperatures will fall to zero but to help, I am very pleased that The Kingdom Way Trust will also be offering an emergency same day bed through to 28th February.