I am writing this just after the start of the national lockdown and this is, of course, not the start to the year any of us wanted.
However, it became clear that the new strain of coronavirus, and the rate at which it was and is spreading, gave the Government no choice but to take this drastic action.
Public Health England believe this new strain has been here in the South West for a few weeks and it is clear our hospitals are under pressure. Infections may not be at the same level as other parts of the country, but if we do not do everything we can to control it, then it will accelerate and our more elderly and vulnerable population will be put in grave danger.
As your Member of Parliament and Minister for the Armed Forces, I am doing everything I can to get the vaccine delivered as quickly as possible; fundamentally, we are now in a straightforward race between virus and vaccine.
The Government has been clear that the elderly (with more than one million people having already been vaccinated) and those with underlying health conditions will be prioritised during this lockdown period. It is also important to note that scientists believe it is the right call to administer as many people as possible with the first dose to protect a larger number of the population. The second dose will then follow after 12 weeks, with the UK’s Chief Medical Officers explaining: ‘prioritising the first doses of vaccine for as many people as possible on the priority list will protect the greatest number of at-risk people overall in the shortest possible time and will have the greatest impact on reducing mortality, severe disease and hospitalisations and in protecting the NHS and equivalent health services.’
This is a huge project but the biggest vaccine roll out scheme in recent memory is the Government’s priority and the lockdown will help us ensure our NHS is not overwhelmed and vaccinations can rapidly increase.