Boris Johnson has said that the government will be “looking at the potential of relaxing some measures” before the middle of next month
Data on when the nation’s COVID-19 lockdown measures can start to be eased in England will be assessed before mid-February, according to the Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson has said that the government will be “looking at the potential of relaxing some measures” before the middle of the next month.
This comes after people who have already been vaccinated for COVID-19 could still transmit the coronavirus on to other people and should continue following the lockdown restrictions, England’s deputy chief medical officer has stressed.
Speaking at a COVID-19 vaccination site at Barnet Football Club in north London, the PM said: “We’re looking at the data as it comes in, we’re looking at the rates of infection, as you know the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] groups 1 to 4 [on the priority list] will be vaccinated by February the 15th.”
“Before then we’ll be looking at the potential of relaxing some measures.”
“But don’t forget this country has made huge progress in reducing infection, I don’t think people want to see another big surge in infection.”
After some confusion over whether this meant restrictions could be eased by the middle of next month, a Number 10 source told Sky News the PM meant the “looking at” restrictions will happen before then, not the relaxing of measures.
And speaking later at a Westminster briefing, his spokesman told journalists: “The prime minister was just making clear that, as I just said, we continue to look at the latest evidence in terms of the transmission of the virus, the number of people hospitalised, and the number of people who sadly go on to die.
“And he was making the point that ahead of the 15th of February, which as you know is the review point, we will look at that evidence closely, and that will inform what we may or may not be able to ease from the 15th onwards.”
This comes after around two-thirds residents of elderly care homes have had a COVID-19 vaccine, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told MPs. The government has set a deadline of the 15th of February for offering the first dose of a vaccine to 15 million of the most vulnerable people.
The Prme Minister declined to guarantee that all pupils in the country will be back at school before the Easter break, but had promised to tell parents and teachers “as much as we can as soon as we can”.
“Daily we’re looking at the data and trying to work out when we’re going to be able to lift restrictions,” he said.
“Schools obviously will be a priority but I don’t think anybody would want to see the restrictions lifted so quickly while the rate of infection is still very high so as to lead to another great spread of infection.”
Mr Johnson is also coming under increasing pressure to get school children back in the classroom, including from a number of Conservative MPs.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to confirm this week that pupils will not return after the February half-term as had been hoped when the third lockdown for England was announced earlier this month.