Time to start looking ahead to a brighter future

Vaccination centre sign

I write this as the nation prepares to pause one year after the first national lockdown was announced.

It is a time to reflect and remember a year none of us could have ever imagined – and one that will be taught in our classrooms to future generations.

Of course, the pandemic is not over yet but the incredible vaccination effort, both locally and across the country, has become a real symbol of hope.

Next week, grassroots sports will return – so vital for health and social reasons alike – alongside the rule of six and we will also be able to welcome another household into our gardens.

By the time I write this column again next month, many of our shops and businesses should be open again.

There are reasons for hope, even as we all search for another ‘new normal’.

Our shopping and social habits have changed over the last year and our town centre businesses, especially, must reflect that.

Simply opening their doors again may not be enough for some – their messages of safety, responsibility and confidence must sit alongside any welcome back special offers.

Our schools are alive again with the sound of learning and laughter and they should be congratulated for overcoming every hurdle in the last year with determination and resilience. Thousands of lateral flow tests taking place within weeks of secondary schools fully reopening is a remarkable effort.

Our amazing health service has never shined so brightly as it is has in the last year. We now look ahead to new hospital plans while also promoting a greater focus on other treatments and services which perhaps have been sheltered by the black cloud of the pandemic.

The last year has also seen so many volunteers and unsung heroes come to the fore. They don’t want the limelight but they too deserve our huge thanks.

We must also hope some of the lessons from the last year are not forgotten. We are all – myself included – more digitally savvy and we have proved there are different ways of working.

A new BBC survey this week suggests other lockdown habits might outlast the pandemic – including shopping locally and enjoying the simple act of walking.

Haverhill and the surrounding area has some fine places to enjoy the great outdoors.

Locally, and where possible, we must embrace all of these lessons and habits and more.

We will never forget the last year and nor should we. But let’s hope we can start looking ahead to a brighter future.

By John Mayhew, Chairman, ONE Haverhill Partnership