There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it is getting brighter. On Monday, early results from the world's first effective coronavirus vaccine showed it could prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid.
The Health Secretary has confirmed that regulators could approve a vaccine "within days" of the Pfizer licence application being submitted because they have been examining data throughout. Meanwhile reports suggest that Oxford University's AstraZeneca vaccine will publish its preliminary results very shortly, which will kick-start the rollout process of its candidate.
Here in Cheltenham, GP surgeries are being contacted and asked to designate a single practice capable of administering hundreds of doses of the vaccine in the town each week. The Government has allocated an extra £150m to support the rollout, and the Army is gearing up.
But even after so much pain, loss and hardship, we must not let down our guard. The statistics from Gloucestershire Hospitals make clear why this short lockdown, however unwelcome, was unavoidable. On Tuesday evening there were 80 Covid patients in Gloucestershire hospitals, up from around ten just a few weeks ago.
Thanks to the planning and preparation of NHS staff, Cheltenham is still able to carry out the essential, non-Covid, planned operations. In other countries affected by the northern European wave, that has not been the case, and sadly operations are being cancelled. In Italy footage has emerged of patients being given oxygen in their cars.
So no one should assume this winter will be easy. But we are in a far better place than in the spring to face it. From a standing start, the UK now has the highest testing rate in Europe – far higher than in peer nations. With the rollout of 600,000 rapid tests across England, we can detect this virus quicker than ever before.
This is not the end, but we are making rapid progress. This disease can, and will, be beaten.