How we have responded collectively to the pandemic makes me extremely proud | Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar

The festive season last year was so difficult for so many of us and I know many of you will be breathing a sigh of relief following the announcement that there will be no further restrictions before Christmas.

Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar
Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar

Once again things are moving at pace so what the coming week has in store is anyone's guess.

For now at least, we can all look forward to spending time with loved ones. I know of the sacrifices everyone has made to protect themselves and others, so this is welcome news.

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Looking back on this past year, I am extremely proud of how we have responded collectively to the pandemic by not only following all the restrictions imposed on us, but also the way in which we have supported one another, especially the most vulnerable.

Just like last year, volunteers from Ghausia Mosque and West End Community Centre have been working together to ensure everyone can enjoy Christmas.

The Imam at the mosque has coordinated donations for the foodbank and the community has come together to provide food parcels for vulnerable residents across the borough.

It was a pleasure to join the teams to deliver the food parcels along with cleaning essentials and Christmas gifts to 80 households.

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The mosque and the community centre have been working together since the start of the pandemic and have established a relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

This is just one example of the many organisations across our borough who work tirelessly to help others all year round. They really are the best of us.

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This week, I have also had the opportunity to attend and support the winter HAF programme, providing holiday activities, food and fun for children and young people across Burnley.

The programme has proved extremely popular and has been led by grassroots organisations embedded in their communities.

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The range of activities on offer and the skills and experience these groups boast is admirable.

I for one will be calling for such projects to be made permanent.

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With the emergence of the Omicron variant, it is important we continue to follow the guidance and remain cautious throughout the festive period.

It is clear that vaccines remain our best defence against the virus, which is why I am so grateful to all the volunteers (especially 'Jabs Army') supporting our vaccination sites and brilliant NHS staff and GPs who are leading the charge to get every eligible adult their booster before the New Year.

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We have walk in vaccination sites at Charter Walk, Daneshouse and Stoneyholme Community Centre and at St Peters Centre.

So, if you haven’t yet taken up the offer of the booster or your first and second dose, I would urge you to get yourself vaccinated.

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I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those working in the emergency services – our doctors and nurses, NHS staff, the police, the fire service and ambulance crews and every key worker who will be working over Christmas.

Their sacrifices make it possible for us to enjoy time off with our families.

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And finally, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas, stay safe, protect yourselves and loved ones and see you all in the new year.