We are back in lockdown again and 2021 is looking a lot like 2020. The difference, and the reason I supported it last week, is that we finally have the ultimate release from lockdown in the form of the vaccine.
I warmly welcome the vaccine delivery plan published yesterday. It seems that we are off to a good start, with 2.3 million people having been vaccinated. That is great. There is no doubt that we will see problems. Supply, to quote the vaccines Minister, is going to be “lumpy”. That is creating difficulties. We have begun well in my constituency, but it is hugely frustrating to see the postponing today of a raft of appointments for this week because of problems of supply. We cannot duck the fact that that has hurt public confidence, and I ask the Minister responding today to set out for the House exactly, because I keep being asked this, where the supply falls down at an early stage. Is it the manufacturing? Is it the settling process? What exactly is it? I am told that the deliveries for next week look much better. We have a lot of AstraZeneca vaccine coming into the county, so I hope the Minister can help us to correct this problem, to get those appointments made and carried out as soon as possible.
It remains my belief that these horrible restrictions on our lives cannot be in place a day longer than required —and, to be clear, they are currently required. Alongside the published vaccine delivery plan and daily figures on how we are getting covid done, we must give the public some hope. As the Secretary of State said last night at the press conference, over 88% of those likely to get seriously unwell, and sadly die, reside within the top four priority vaccine groups. Given that the only metric that really counts, and the reason public support for the lockdown is so high, is the desire to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed, logic would dictate that once that threat has gone away, we can start to lift restrictions.
We need clear heads if we are going to do this. Covid is not a conspiracy and it is not a hoax. We were right to take it seriously last spring, and since, but we are equally right to demand a plan that dismantles the most draconian of laws on our constituents in lockstep with the vaccination programme. When we have vaccinated the highest-risk groups, what will we do? When we have completed phase one by vaccinating all those with above-average risk by late March, what will we then do? Put another way, how does success in vaccine delivery translate into a return to normal? What is the exit strategy? The public have put up with an awful lot. The vast majority of them have done exactly what we asked. They need hope, they need to see a path out of this, and then we can attempt to make sure that 2021 really is not the new 2020.