ON the eve of Christmas, we find ourselves faced once again with a great deal of uncertainty.

I am very aware of just how important this time of year is for individuals, families and businesses, as we look forward to celebrating the festive period and enjoying time together.

People have rightly been anticipating this Christmas with particular joy, knowing it is two years since many family groups have been able to mix and meet freely.

And I know from the many notes and letters I receive from constituents just how impactful the pandemic has been and the legacy it has left in so many lives.

Despite this, it is important to acknowledge the phenomenal progress made in our understanding and treatment of the virus.

The achievements made by the global scientific community are quite remarkable, but these rapid scientific developments also raise expectations - people want clear answers and definitive action when often more time and data is the only way to provide more certainty. 

Uncertainty is uncomfortable. It provides space for speculation and misinformation.

It encourages some to exploit others through criminal acts, often affecting the most vulnerable among us.

Our access to, and appetite for, instant communication also means we can consume news and information at haste.

There is often more impatience and intolerance - which in turn can foster greater divisiveness.

The pandemic has shown that when communities or nations come together with a shared purpose, positive action can be taken at speed, with goodwill and a spirit of compromise.

Coming together at Christmas is more often about consideration for others - thinking about the needs of older or younger family members, checking on neighbours, sharing visits or taking turns to keep others company.

We tend to set aside differences and look for common ground. We share food, take walks together and exchange gifts. Some may attend a church service together or simply enjoy sharing a favourite film or TV programme.

There is also a great spirit of generosity, and I once again want to thank the hundreds of local people who step up each year to help others in times of need and particularly during the festive period.

There is no doubt we get great comfort and strength from coming together, and I certainly hope as many people as possible are able to do that this year.

But the threat from Omicron cannot be ignored. I remain confident of the progress we continue to make for the medium term, but I do also recognise there may be steps we need to take in the short term to ensure we have the time and data to be more certain of the path that Covid is taking. 

I would, though, like to take this opportunity to wish everyone across East Hampshire and beyond a happy and joyful Christmas.