LOCKDOWN is set to be lifted in March under the government’s plans to ease restrictions but the Tiers system will return, Dominic Raab said today.
The foreign minister said easing measures will “not happen in one big bang,” instead insisting they will be “phased out” in individual regions.
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It comes after a cabinet deal was done to approve a three-point plan for lifting the coronavirus lockdown by early spring.
In order for measures to be eased, an area’s death rate must fall, the number of hospital admissions must drop and some in the 50 to 70-year-old age range must be vaccinated.
Speaking of the new plan this morning, Dominic Raab said the government hopes to be in a position to make decisions about easing the lockdown by March.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Of course what we want to do is get out of this national lockdown.”
But he added: “We won’t do it all in one big bang.
“We will end up phasing through the tiered approach.”
He went on to tell the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show “we can start to think about the phased transition out of the national lockdown” if government targets are met by early spring.
“When we get to early Spring if we’ve succeeded, we can start to think about the phased transition out of the national lockdown,” he said.
“It won’t be a big bang, it’ll possibly be back through the Tiers system.”
Yesterday, Sage scientist Professor John Edmunds warned lifting restrictions too soon would be a “disaster” even with the vaccine rollout.
But cabinet ministers said privately that they were prepared to resist pressure from Sage members wanting to delay tier changes until most people are vaccinated, a process that would take until the summer at least.
LIFTING THE LOCK
At the end of this week, ministers will begin drawing up a timetable to end the full shutdown after they see the first evidence of the effect of the latest national lockdown, The Times reports.
A cabinet source said: “For the first time there are no significant divisions between hawks and doves in the cabinet.
“Everyone accepted that we need to lock down hard and everyone accepts that we need to open up before everyone is vaccinated.”
But Tory MPs have piled pressure on Boris Johnson to publish a “clear road map” for easing the lockdown from March 8, warning the PM there “cannot be any more excuses”.
Mark Harper, the Tory chairman of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, said people “need hope” and businesses “need a plan in order to survive”.
He wrote in The Sunday Telegraph: “That’s why this week, we need a draft plan for the progressive lifting of restrictions from March 8 so that the public, businesses and scientists can use it as the basis for a sensible debate, as the Prime Minister suggested on Friday.”
It comes as some experts believe the move out of lockdown could be made too soon.
Prof John Edmunds told the BBC: “I think it would be a disaster if we removed restrictions in, say, the end of February when we have gone through this first wave of the vaccination.
“First of all, vaccines aren’t ever 100 per cent protective, and so even those that have been vaccinated would be still at some risk.
“Secondly, it is only a small fraction of the population who would have been vaccinated.
“If you look at the hospitalisations at the moment, about half of them are in the under 70s, and they are not in the first wave to be vaccinated.
“If we relaxed our restrictions we would immediately put the NHS under enormous pressure again.”
A total of 3,559,179 people have received their first jab as of Friday – 201,818 more than the total number of Covid cases in the UK.
And the Government is optimistic that all adults in the UK could be vaccinated in time for summer.
A source told The Daily Telegraph: “All over-18s by June – yes.”
They added: “It is delivery, delivery, delivery.”
Mr Raab played down the reports and said that every adult would be offered a vaccine by September.
“If we can do it faster then great but that is the road map,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge.
Reports suggest over 32million over-50s could be vaccinated by the end of March under plants to ramp up the jab roll-out, with the Government preparing to more than double the pace of the current programme next week.
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It means up to half a million jabs will be given every day.
It comes after a further 1,295 people died with Covid in the UK yesterday – amid warnings the peak of the second wave hasn’t yet been reached.
Another 41,346 more cases were recorded – meaning 3,357,365 people have now tested positive for coronavirus since the pandemic took hold.
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