It’s been a really challenging year for all of us. Who would have thought at the beginning of last year that, in only a few months’ time, we’d be in a nation-wide lockdown to protect ourselves from a global pandemic? It’s been tough on everyone – keeping apart from loved ones, not going out to work, studying and learning from home. Businesses have been placed under enormous pressure, many of which are only still going today on account of the generous support the government has provided in the form of staff furloughs and other grants and loans.

Most tragically of all, we all know people who have lost friends and family. And we mourn them all.

Of course, there are also aspects of the last year we will look back on with pride. The way Welwyn Hatfield has pulled together. The resilience our local NHS staff have shown when working at any and all hours in the battle against this virus. Local charities and volunteers like Sarah Jamieson of Resolve, who literally moved in with the homeless people she was helping to find accommodation during lockdown. And, of course, all those involved in the Herculean effort that is our vaccination roll-out, some of whom I had the pleasure of meeting when I had my first jab at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield recently.

One year and three lockdowns later, the remarkable rollout of our vaccine programme means that we’re now able to look forward to a cautious but final route back to normality. Well over 50% of all adults in the UK have now been vaccinated – no other major economy in the world has vaccinated its population faster. We know it will take time for things to get back to normal, but thanks to the fortitude of the people of Welwyn Hatfield, as well as the hard work of our scientists, our brilliant NHS workers, our military and the army of volunteers across the entire country, we are embarking upon the journey to recovery.

– Grant Shapps