Eddie Fraser, Chief Executive of East Ayrshire Council, reflects on the challenges experienced by local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, since March 2020.
"Today marks the second anniversary of the first Covid lockdown announcement and I wanted to take a brief moment to reflect on what the impact has been for East Ayrshire and to record my admiration and thanks to our communities, our partners and our employees, for their courage, compassion and sacrifice, throughout these past two years.
"More than a third of East Ayrshire’s population, some 43,000 people, have tested positive for the virus since March 2020. Even now, Covid continues to be highly prevalent in our communities and in the last week alone, more than 2,700 positive tests were confirmed. Public services are still under enormous pressure, particularly in areas such as education, health and social care and in recent days, there has been a rise in the number of people in hospital testing positive for Covid.
"Since the start of the pandemic, 355 people who tested positive for the virus have sadly died in East Ayrshire, leaving behind friends and family who will forever feel their absence. The pandemic has claimed the lives of too many people and my heartfelt condolences go out to everyone who has lost loved ones to the virus and to other causes, during this time.
"Thankfully, the mass vaccination programme has weakened the link between infection and severe illness and this is making a huge difference to the impact of the current wave. Just over 74% of those aged over 12 have received 3 doses of the vaccine, with efforts now underway to provide additional boosters to those over 75 and those who are immunosuppressed.
"The majority of restrictions have now been removed and it is likely that we will soon see the legal requirement for face coverings lifted too, but as life returns to ‘normal’, it is clear that things will never be quite the same again. Our economy has been hit hard and there will be profound effects on children and young people, families and communities, for many years to come. I am particularly concerned that as a result of the pandemic and other events, we are seeing the cost of living increase at an alarming rate and tackling this will be a priority for our Council.
"Our communities and the people we serve, will always be at the heart of everything we do and I want to put on record my sincere thanks, on behalf of the Council, for your sacrifice and your patience. The past two years have been challenging, but the care and compassion that our communities and teams have shown will serve us well as we continue to provide the best possible services, with and for our communities."