I was glad to visit the vaccination centre at the John Coupland Hospital in Gainsborough to see the Lincolnshire vaccine rollout in action. Our medical professionals are working hard to make sure our vulnerable people get their jabs in time. Local NHS officials inform me that by the time you read this, all care home residents in Lincolnshire will have been vaccinated as well as all over-80s in the county. The over-70s and the clinically vulnerable are on course to have been vaccinated by the middle of February. We face a particular challenge in Lincolnshire thanks to a disproportionately higher number of care homes and a population older than the national average. This makes the results all the more impressive.
Across the UK more than 6.3 million people have had at least one dose of the vaccine. In global terms, our country is doing exceedingly well in terms of the rollout. As the Health Secretary pointed out, we’ve managed to vaccinate more people in a three-day period than France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Austria, and Belgium combined. Only the United States and the People’s Republic of China have managed to vaccinate more individuals than we have. Even looking at a per capita rate rather than individuals, the UK is third in the world behind Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Everyone wants to know when the restrictions will end, and we still can’t be certain. It will be tempting for some of the medical establishment to argue that the lockdown should be prolonged. But once the most vulnerable people in our society have been vaccinated then we must see significant lifting of the restrictions. We will still need to provide extra support to the unwell, to the medical professionals looking after them, and to those who need to self-isolate. But permanent lockdown until there are zero cases is simply unsustainable. We need to get our businesses up and running again, get our children back in school, and get the country back on track while we continue to protect the vulnerable. With proper measures in place, we can keep transmission down and return to some kind of normality.
In the Commons, I put the case to ministers for full compensation for those affected by the Equitable Life scandal that first emerged two decades ago. Only partial compensation has been available so far, and there have been discrepancies with payments. Many in Lincolnshire were affected, usually hard-working people who were responsible and saved to provide for their retirement. As this was a matter of regulatory neglect, we will continue to fight for the interest of these people to see if there is any further help the government can provide.