Minister says time required for vaccine to work means that in mid-February restrictions can not be definitively lifted
The third national lockdown placed in England to deal with a huge increase in Covid’s 19 cases is likely to remain in effect until at least March, with some steps lasting much longer, the government said.
Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said he hoped that the gradual easing of restrictions could start in mid-February, but that it would possibly take at least a few more weeks for the vaccines to operate before the controls could be relaxed.
“We can’t predict with certainty that we will be able to lift the restrictions in the week of Feb. 15-22, but we will do everything we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated so that we can start to lift the restrictions gradually,” Gove told Sky News on Tuesday.
“I think it’s right to say that as we move into March we should be able to lift some of these restrictions – but not necessarily all of them.”
England – with the most extreme restrictions since last March – was put under a renewed national lockdown on Monday.
Announcing the steps, Boris Johnson warned that “toughest yet.” will be the coming weeks.
To deal with the new variant of the virus, the prime minister said closing schools and non-essential businesses and asking people to remain indoors was important.
But after insisting just hours earlier that it was safe for them to be there, ministers were unable to justify why they waited until some kids were already back in the classroom to make the announcement.
Gove acknowledged, speaking on Tuesday morning, that ministers had waited until the last moment and implemented the limits only when they had no other alternative. “Closing schools is really the very last resort,” he told Sky News. None of us wanted to do it. We all know why it’s so important for kids to get the best possible education.
But yesterday, the Chief Medical Officers of all parts of the United Kingdom agreed that we would go to level five, the most significant level of warning against this infection.
And given that news, yesterday we had no choice but to take all the steps we could take.
Fast Guide Who is the first to get the latest Covid 19 vaccine in the UK?
The United Kingdom is the first Western country to accept a covid vaccine. Margaret Keenan, aged 90, became the first patient in the world to receive the vaccine on Dec. 8. A list of categories of persons who should be given priority to obtaining a Covid-19 vaccine has been released by the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. The list is:
1 All individuals 80 years of age or older and practitioners in the health and social services.
2 Someone who is 75 years of age and over.
3 All individuals above 70 years of age.
4 Someone who’s 65 years and older.
5 Adults under 65 years of age who are at high risk of serious illness and Covid-19 mortality.
6 People under 65 years of age with a modest risk of serious illness and Covid-19 mortality.
7 All people over 60 years of age.
8 All people over 55 years of age.
9 All people who are 50 years of age and above.
10 The rest of the population.
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Keir Starmer said he would support the current national freeze in England. The Labour leader told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday, “It was inevitable that a national restriction would be needed.” That’s why I was asking for it.’
He called for a return to last March’s spirit, saying it was now a race against time to speed up the national vaccination program. “We have a contract with the British people that says these are tough constraints.”
In return, the government has to aggressively phase out and speed up the vaccination program. It’s a huge challenge, and we need to come together, I believe.
He said he wanted to see a “vaccination center on every high street,” speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today show, adding, “The prime minister said seven weeks – that’s so that the vaccination program can be rolled out to 13 to 14 million people…” I hope he’s not over-promising.”
Gove recognized that it was unlikely that the vaccine would be administered to all 14 million people on time and suggested that the restrictions would remain in effect.