Boris Johnson: Subject to ‘many caveats’ February end to lockdown

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PM promises to use ‘every second’ of lockdown to vaccinate vulnerable people as figures show Covid has 1 million individuals in England.

Boris Johnson issued a cautious message about the government’s attempt to get England out of lockdown in mid-February, stating that “many caveats, many ifs.” are subject to the timetable.

At a press conference in Downing Street, where Johnson said that nearly a quarter of those over 80 had been vaccinated by the government, both the prime minister and his science and medical advisors emphasized that the vaccination did not automatically mean a return to normal life by spring.

Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said that some restrictions could still be needed next winter even with the vaccine and that coronavirus would not vanish “in one fell swoop.”

Johnson, who was the key voice of hope for the government during most of the pandemic, was surprisingly cautious. He declined to promise that children would return to school entirely before the summer, calling it a “basic hope.” instead.

“Johnson promised that there would soon be daily updates on vaccination numbers by announcing that 1.3 million people had been vaccinated across the U.K., but said that “there are still long weeks ahead and we need to hold on to those constraints.

The vaccine data came with grim infection figures that confirmed that there are already an estimated 1 million people infected with Covid-19 in England, or one in 50 individuals. Reports from the Office for National Statistics found that between Dec. 27 and Jan. 2 percent of the U.K. population was infected with the virus.

Johnson had said his intention was to vaccinate more than 13 million elderly or clinically vulnerable people by mid-February in announcing England’s third national lockdown Monday so that restrictions could be eased.

But Johnson admitted, confronted by that timetable, that “it depends on a number of things.”

“He said, “Assuming that we don’t find something new about the virus that we don’t yet understand, there is no new mutation that we haven’t anticipated; assuming that the vaccine’s implementation goes according to plan; assuming that the vaccine is as successful as we believe it is; but most importantly, assuming that everyone is now following the guidelines.”
Whitty called it “realistic but not easy,” discussing the initiative, and advised individuals to be prepared in the months ahead for potential restrictions.

Whitty said the risk levels of Covid would require the steps to be “phased out, possibly at different rates in different parts of the country.”

“We will then get to a point over time where people say that this level of risk is something that society is willing to tolerate and lift to almost no restrictions,” he said. “We may have to put some in next winter, it’s possible, because winter will benefit the virus.”

Johnson said in his opening remarks that the importance of the success of the vaccination program can not be underestimated and that it is right to prioritize the elderly, even over medical workers.

And you see the value of what we’ve already done when you remember that the total age of Covid deaths is in the 80s.

And that’s why I believe the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunization was right to establish a policy to save the most lives as quickly as possible.
Johnson defended his decision to keep most schools open until Monday night, saying he had hoped to see proof that the Tier 4 initiatives were working to minimize the rate of infection.

We needed to test the Tier 4 initiatives, and as the days went on through Sunday… we hoped that we would start to see some impact and that we would be able to keep schools open because it is an absolute necessity for this country to keep schools open.

“It was clear that we had gotten into a situation where we couldn’t rely on Level 4 alone to control the virus.”

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