Ministers are to begin reviewing coronavirus restrictions in England, as the government awaits key data on how successfully vaccines reduce transmission.
More than 15 million people across the UK have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said there is “some way to go” before lockdown is eased.
‘Significant milestone’ in fight against Covid
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has praised the success of the UK’s vaccination programme as a “significant milestone” in the fight against the virus.
The vaccination programme has been in place for just over two months, and Ministers have said they are “on track” to meet the target of offering the first dose to everyone in the top four priority groups, including all over-70s, by Monday’s (15 February) deadline.
The success of the vaccine rollout in the UK will increase pressure on the Prime Minister from his party’s lockdown skeptical backbenches to set out a quick plan to ease lockdown restrictions.
Mr Johnson is currently due to release his “road map” out of lockdown on the week of 22 February.
The reopening of schools is set to be the government’s first priority, with a provisional date of 8 March currently set.
Decisions to be made this week
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government will be taking decisions this week about the plan for easing lockdown.
He said: “We are taking those decisions this week, so we will be looking at the data, looking at the success of the vaccine rollout and how far that has reached and its impact in terms of protecting people, looking at the number of cases and critically, looking at the number of people who are in hospital and the number of deaths – those two factors are vital.
“Right now, as of today, at the latest count there are still over 23,000 people in hospital with Covid – that’s more than in the April peak – so we’ve still got some way to go, but we are looking to set out that road map on Monday.”
Mr Hancock also noted that there was “early evidence” that showed vaccines are reducing the spread of Covid-19 by about two thirds.
But he stressed ministers want to “see that actually in the data, not just from the trials”, as well as a drop in hospital admissions and deaths from jabs, when considering easing restrictions.