NEW Year is normally such a great time for optimism. Sure, we may have put on a few pounds over the Christmas break, but it is an opportunity for a fresh start, a new beginning. And this year, more than any, was one where we all looked forward to getting our lives back to normal.

That is why this week’s announcement that we are to go back into a national lockdown is so devastating for, well, everyone.

The reason is well known and I don’t need to rehearse again here the arguments about the huge risk to the NHS if we do not tackle the new strain of Covid-19.

But as we closed 2020 with hope that the new vaccines will give us a solution to the problems we faced last year, none of us had any inkling that within a few days we would be back to where we were last March.

This latest unwelcome, but necessary, lockdown will throw into chaos so many people’s plans.

Schools are now shut until the half-term at the earliest. Parents, hoping to get back to work, now have to arrange childcare. The high street, having lost out on the Christmas boom, is now losing out on the new year sales. Hospitality now has to rely, again, on government handouts.

And for those who had a miserable isolation during the first lockdowns – those living alone and self-isolating especially – now face the next eight or nine weeks reliving that nightmare.

No one in government wants to do this to our country. Everyone who ever came into politics and public service did so to make the world a better place. Imposing these draconian restrictions goes against every instinct of a libertarian.

But it is absolutely vital that we deal with this global crises, or we will never recover our normal lives.

It is good news that the solution – vaccination – is being led by the UK. We were the first to regulate and start delivering vaccinations, and we have already delivered more than the whole of the European Union’s 27 members combined. We are a true world leader in rolling out the jab.

We will get through this, but not without these necessary but heartbreaking lockdowns.

We all have to play our part and mine is to be here to give support when needed. My office is fully staffed and ready to help. You have but to ask.