Government ‘plans to end lockdown in March’ while ‘every adult could get Covid vaccine by end of June’

John Dunne
·5-min read
<p>People walk in Victoria Park in east London on Saturday, as life in England continues under lockdown</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

People walk in Victoria Park in east London on Saturday, as life in England continues under lockdown

(AFP via Getty Images)

The government is planning to end lockdown in March after cabinet members agreed that waiting until the summer when most people will have been vaccinated would lead to yet more economic misery, according to reports.

Ministers are drawing up a timetable to scale back restrictions despite the Sage Advisory committee calling for delays, it has been reported.

Previously the cabinet has been split between those who want to open up the economy as quickly as possible and those who are more cautious and want to follow Sage advice to the letter.

Under the plans areas will be put into lower tiers once their death rate has fallen and the number of 50-70 year olds being admitted to hospital has fallen, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

That age group spends the most time in hospital battling the virus. A blueprint for the end of the lockdown is expected to be looked at later this week which will take into account the latest infection rates, deaths and hospitalisations.

A cabinet source told the Sunday Times: “For the first time there are no significant divisions between hawks and doves. Everyone accepted that we need to lock down hard and everyone accepts that we need to open up before everyone is vaccinated.”

Watch: Easing of lockdown restrictions not before March, says Zahawi

Dominic Raab told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday: “The aim is by the middle of February to have 88% of those most at risk of dying of coronavirus with their first jab, and by the early spring to have 99% – so that is the milestone if you like.

“I think it is true to say that when we get to a situation in the early spring, perhaps March, if we succeed in hitting those targets – we have made good process so far – we can start to think about the phased transition out of the national lockdown.

“I think it is fair to say it won’t be a big bang, if you like, it will be done phased, possibly back through the tiered approach that we had before.”

Meanwhile the government believes that the biggest threat to the plan to end the lockdown as early as the beginning of March are mutant strains, which could be resistant to current vaccines, entering Britain.

Ministers have ordered plans to be drawn up for a fresh crackdown at Britain's borders to stop new variants of the coronavirus undermining the vaccination effort.

Officials have been told to set up quarantine hotels for those arriving in Britain and to use GPS and facial-recognition technology to check that people are staying in isolation. Civil servants are considering emulating schemes in New Zealand. In Australia travellers are forced into self isolation for 14-24 days with travellers charged between £1,500 and £2,500.

The moves come as ministers grow increasingly optimistic that they will hit their target of vaccinating the 14 million most vulnerable people with at least one dose by February 15.

It has also led to senior Government figures telling the Sunday Telegraph every adult in Britain will be vaccinated by the end of June, senior government figures hope, as they grow increasingly optimistic they will be able to accelerate the roll-out.

Watch: '24-hour' vaccination sites in London

The newspaper said Whitehall sources believe this target could realistically be achieved as they plan to vaccinate four to five million people a week within months.

A further two vaccines in the pipe line, from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, could help Britain speed up the process to vaccinate all 54million adults.

A source said: "All over-18s by June - yes. It is delivery, delivery, delivery."

Dominic Raab said on Sunday : "Our target is by September to have offered all the adult population a first dose. If we can do it faster than that, great, but that's the roadmap."

Ten mass vaccination centres will open from 8am tomorrow, including Bournemouth International Centre, Taunton racecourse, the Princess Royal Sports Arena in Lincolnshire and St Helens rugby league stadium in Merseyside. It was announced yesterday that 40% of the over-80s have had their first jab and that this week millions of people aged over 70 will begin getting letters inviting them to be vaccinated.

The mass vaccination centres will boost the total number of large-scale centres delivering the jabs to 17 and ensure at least one is located in each health region so that rural parts of the country such as Boston in Lincolnshire and Norwich were within reach of one.

The other super-hubs opening are Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire, Salt Hill Activity Centre in Slough, Norwich Foodcourt, the Lodge in Wickford in Essex, the park and ride at Askham Bar, York, and the Olympic Office Centre, in Wembley, northwest London.In a rapid acceleration of the vaccine drive, dozens of pharmacies will begin offering the first dose of the jab from tomorrow.

Health secretary Matt Hancock urged people to commit to three pledges to "help out", "join up" and "stay informed" during the efforts to vaccinate, run clinical trials and share accurate health advice.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, warned the government against lifting the restrictions too quickly. Hopson said: "We need to be careful about saying that just because people have been vaccinated the spread won't happen and therefore we can pull off all restrictions on social contact immediately."

One member of Sage said yesterday: "If the government opens up without having driven it [the number of virus cases] towards zero, and without a good test, trace and isolate system, the virus is going to bounce back. If we are not extremely careful, we're could see yo-yo lockdowns for some time."

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said there would be lots of new variants this year, but the current vaccines should protect against the strains circulating in the UK

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown

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