• Wed. Feb 24th, 2021

Covid UK: Easing lockdown ‘can’t be sped up’ and could be slowed down


Feb 23, 2021

Matt Hancock said the pace of unlocking lockdown cannot go any faster (Picture: PA)

Matt Hancock has warned the pace of unlocking lockdown will not happen faster, and could even be slowed down.

The Health Secretary said ministers will remain ‘vigilant’ against infection rates after Boris Johnson announced his four-stage plan to ease restrictions yesterday.

There will be a five-week gap between each stage of unlock – starting on March 8 when schools in England reopen – which Mr Hancock said will be ‘vital’ to keeping cases down.

‘It’s very, very important that we can see the impact of one step before taking the next step,’ he told Sky News.

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‘There’s a vital need to keep watching the data and for all us, the whole of society, to stick with this plan.

‘We want to be able to hit those milestones, but we will be vigilant and watch what’s happening to make sure it’s safe to make each move.

‘The Prime Minister set out the four tests we will apply before announcing each move can go ahead.

‘Of course we want to make the moves at the dates that are set out.

England’s lockdown will be unlocked gradually over the next four months (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

‘But it’s on all of us to make sure we can by continuing to follow the rules between now and then as the vaccine rollout continues and as the really, really positive impact of those vaccines takes effect. This is on all of us.’

Mr Hancock said the aim was to move to ‘personal responsibility’ rather than having social distancing laws ‘that get in the way of normal life’.

‘Patrick Vallance was clear yesterday that mask wearing in winter is one of the examples of things that might need to stay,’ he told Times Radio.

‘What we want to do is get rid of the social distancing-type laws that get in the way of normal life and move to personal responsibility, rather than laws dictating how all of us live our daily lives.

England’s lockdown will be unlocked in four stages (Picture: SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

‘But, it is also clear that eradication is unfortunately not possible with this disease, so we are going to have to learn to live with it.

‘In the same way that for instance we live with flu, but we don’t let flu get in the way of living our lives.

‘But we do vaccinate against it every year – in the case of flu we vaccinate those who are most vulnerable – and so I expect to have that vaccination programme as a regular feature of future life.’

The Prime Minister defended his ‘cautious but also irreversible’ approach to relaxing restrictions yesterday, saying he will not be ‘buccaneering’ with people’s lives.

But despite billing his plans as a ‘one-way road to freedom’, he admitted he cannot guarantee that the vaccination programme will prevent restrictions from ever returning.

The PM accepted that scientific modelling suggested that lifting measures will increase Covid cases and ultimately deaths, but said restrictions cannot continue indefinitely.

In the first step of the ‘road map’, all pupils in England’s schools are expected to return to class from March 8, with wider use of face masks and testing in secondary schools.

Socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be permitted from that date.

A further easing will take place on March 29, when the school Easter holidays begin, with larger groups of up to six people or two households allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

But progressing along the schedule will depend on meeting four tests: the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, an assessment of new variants, and keeping infection rates below a level that could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected]

For more stories like this, check our news page.

Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown

Boris Johnson has laid out his plans to lift Covid-19 restrictions in England, following weeks of lockdown which began on January 4.

The Prime Minister confirmed that the route back to normality will depend upon four tests for easing restrictions and will take into account the success of the vaccine rollout.

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