Watch: Boris Johnson to consider relaxing coronavirus restrictions
It follows confusion about what Johnson meant earlier on Monday when he said talks “looking at the potential of relaxing some measures” would take place ahead of this key review date.
By 15 February, the government aims to have vaccinated 14 million people in the top four priority groups, including over-70s, care home residents and health and social care workers.
Clarifying Johnson’s remarks, the spokesman said restrictions will be eased “when it is safe to do so” – but that the prime minister currently “intends” to begin easing them in three weeks’ time in mid-February.
“He was making the point that ahead of February 15, 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.”
The spokesman added: “It has always been our intention to ease restrictions where we can from that point on the 15th, and schools are obviously our top priority.
England’s national lockdown, which Johnson imposed on 4 January, can legally last until 31 March. Johnson has already said the restrictions won’t be eased before 15 February.
However, health secretary Matt Hancock warned on Sunday that England is a “long, long, long way” from lockdown measures being eased, though he didn’t provide a specific time frame.
Meanwhile, Johnson failed to give a guarantee on Monday that schools would be back before Easter – amid some Tory MPs calling for a strategy which would allow them to reopen.
Johnson said: “I do think now this massive achievement has been made of rolling out this vaccination programme, I think people want to see us making sure we don’t throw that away by having a premature relaxation and then another big surge of infection.
“I totally understand the frustrations of parents, I really thank teachers for what they’re doing, the immense efforts they’re going to to teach kids online, and the government has provided a lot of laptops… I know that’s no substitute for direct face-to-face learning.
“Believe me there’s nothing I want to do more than reopen schools, I’ve fought to keep schools open for as long as I possibly could.
“We want to see schools back as fast as possible, we want to do that in a way that is consistent with fighting the epidemic and keeping the infection rate down.”
Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown