Opinion with South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay: A clearer roadmap towards normal life

Craig Mackinlay

A couple of weeks ago my regular update was noting the government’s aim of vaccinating the 14.7m most vulnerable by mid-February. We all had some doubts whether such a high bar would be achieved and so it is hugely welcome that the figure was reached a day ahead of forecast and has been exceeded.

Over 15m have now received their first vaccination and the next most vulnerable groups, those over 65 and those younger but with underlying health conditions, are now getting their jabs.

This now gives us, with great confidence, a clearer roadmap towards returning to normal life once more. Given that the maximum immune response is achieved 21 days after vaccination, this points towards the 8th March as a key date already touted as the day that schools will start to re-open.

By that time the most at risk groups, accounting for 88% of potential deaths and 55% of hospitalisations, will have a good level of Covid immunity. We are already seeing massive weekly falls in all Covid metrics – infections, hospitalisations and deaths so I would prefer that we look further ahead and plan now for the re-opening of other facets of our lives and the economy.

The government’s vaccination plan is for most of the remaining vulnerable groups – aged 50 and upwards to be vaccinated by the end of March. This will provide for a good level of protection for 99% of those most likely to suffer the gravest effects of the infection. This makes a significant opening up from Easter both sensible and credible, with legal restrictions to life lifted as soon as practicable and sensible thereafter. Additionally, existing concoctions of drugs, repurposed from their original intent as steroids, anti-arthritis, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral, together with widespread and freely available rapid testing puts us in a hugely different place than where we were a year ago.

There will be those who will say that the various mutations – the South African and Brazilian ones, and there will doubtless be others in due course, means that we daren’t open up too early or at all. That is not a credible position. We need an honest debate about how to live with Covid.

Mutations will arise on a regular basis, it’s what viruses do: thankfully the current vaccines still have good effectiveness against current known variants, but doubtless a new dominant strain will come along in due course upon which the efficacy of current vaccines is limited. We will then, as we do with annual seasonal flu, have to create a new version of vaccine to cope. If any good can emerge out of this global pandemic, difficult as it is to see at present, it will be the rapidity of scientific response for vaccine creation and the new knowledge being put to positive use against other diseases and conditions on the back of what has been learned.

I can foresee annual Covid jabs being given alongside annual flu jabs suppressing significantly but not eliminating risk. This may mean a number of Covid related premature deaths each year, each one a true tragedy, but we do accept, however painfully, a background of annual mortality due to seasonal flu, accidents and misadventures without bringing the normal pleasure of living to a standstill. We must never forget the other negative and serious health and societal effects that lockdowns bring. A moribund economy cannot finance the services that we want and need.

With the cold spell behind us and the long dark nights rapidly receding, I feel a new optimism that March will bring a fresh start. Let’s work together to bear down on infection numbers, take up the vaccination as it is offered and look towards a positive 2021.


  1. Fortunately, what happens over the next few months will not be determined by Mr Mackinlay nor his “Covid Research Group” chums.
    Yes, the vaccine rollout and take up has been fantastic. That’s a fact.
    It’s an aspiration that the next cohort groups will get their first jabs, and the original 4 groups their second jab.
    Yes, the infection and death rates are coming down. So they were last April. Since then, over 100,000 people have died.
    Last autumn, Thanet had one of the lowest infection rates in the UK. Then, along came the “Kent” variant, and we shot to the top of the board.
    On Monday 4th January, it was safe for all schools to reopen. On Tuesday the schools were all closed.
    It is folly of the highest order, putting at risk untold numbers of lives, to use arbitrary dates to determine when this or that might be relaxed.
    The only way forward is with extreme caution, monitoring infection and death rates and the “R” number, and not hesitating to shut down as soon as rates stop falling.
    Unless you’re prepared to accept another 100,000 deaths in return for your pie and a pint.

  2. This guy is a moron and must be stopped. It’s dangerous he has a platform. He is wrong during this nonsensical ramble to levels that risk both lives and the economy. It’s hard to imagine someone can be this wrong unintentionally. It’s almost comedic how wrong he has the basic scientific facts. He is a menace to society. Hopefully Mr Johnson ignores the ignorant elements of his own party.

  3. Marva, believe it or not he writes it himself! As can be seen from this column, he doesnt care about the number of deaths due to covid (collateral damage), only the effect on the economy and the profits he and his mates (i.e Tory donors) can make.

  4. A massive THANK YOU to all the wonderful NHS staff, ancillary staff, and volunteers, whose hard work, often endangering themselves, due to insufficient or unsuitable PPE,(Thanks for nothing, Conservatives – nice little cash cow for your city friends, wasn’t it!) Oand, usually unrecognised, psychological stress, enabled this reduction in the “R” number, and saved thousands of lives. Thank you – all of you!

  5. I think we should introduce vaccination passports.
    Yes it’s discriminatory: it will discriminate between those who have had the jab, and those who haven’t.
    It will enable those non-essential businesses to open up, staffed by people who’ve been vaccinated, and likewise patronized by vaccinated customers.
    As the vaccination roll-out continues, more premises will be able to open, and more customers use them.

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