COVID-19: Boris Johnson to lift UK lockdown rules slowly
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK government will not lift lockdown rules all at once
- COVID-19 vaccines are effectively reducing the UK’s coronavirus infection rate
- Pubs, schools and shops will reopen under a staggered approach
- The Isle of Man eases lockdown restrictions and scraps social distancing measures
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said UK lockdown rules would not be lifted in the immediate future as it is too early to “take their foot off the beast’s neck”.
Mr Johnson said that while the British government is beginning to see infection rates and hospitalisations declining, easing lockdown restrictions now would increase the risk of the “disease spreading again” before enough people have been vaccinated.
The Prime Minister added: “It will take a while for our country to bounce back completely from COVID” but claimed that the UK is on track to achieve its February vaccination target of 15 million people.
UK on track to achieve its vaccination target
Britain hit a new daily COVID vaccine record over the weekend after almost 600,000 people were inoculated on Saturday, primarily due to the UK government expanding its capacity by 76% week average over the last month.
In the last week, a daily average of 358,297 people received their first vaccine dose, meaning the UK government now needs to vaccinate 394,934 people per day to hit the February target.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said that the government aims to offer every adult in the UK a coronavirus vaccine by September.
However, as Britain is yet to see the vaccine’s impact, several health experts and politicians have said that ending the current lockdown must be done cautiously.
Public Health England’s COVID strategy chief, Dr Susan Hopkins, said the UK should continue to focus on the vaccine rollout, to help us return to normal in the second half of the year.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock is also optimistic about Britain’s recovery outlook and hopes that the UK’s rapid vaccination programme will allow Britons to enjoy “a happy and free Great British summer.”
He is scheduled to address the nation during a televised COVID press conference at 5pm from Downing Street on Monday, to deliver an update coronavirus figures and vaccine progress.
According to officials government statistics, 8,977,329 people in Britain have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, while 491,053 have been administered both.
Although an additional 21,088 people tested positive for the virus on Sunday and a further 587 deaths were recorded, the curve representing fatalities and cases is now following a downward trajectory.
Health experts have also said that both the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine and the Pfizer/BioNTech jab is at least 50% effective against emerging COVID variants, including the South African strain.
Meanwhile, the yet-to-be-approved Novavax and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are believed to be 60% effective against new COVID variants, which Dr Susan Hopkins said was extremely “reassuring”.
Despite the positive news, Dr Hopkins stressed that the NHS is still under an overwhelming amount of pressure due to the number of inpatients suffering from the virus. She advised the UK government to reduce easing measures slowly and implement a “two-week watch period after each restriction is lifted to assess the impact of that decision.
However, a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has claimed the UK could return to pre-COVID life this summer thanks to the UK’s army-style vaccination programme.
UK could return to some form of pre-COVID life this summer
Infectious disease expert and SAGE advisory panel member, Professor Mike Tildesley, said Britain could return to some form of normality in a matter of months if the UK maintains its rapid vaccination pace.
Professor Tildesly also proposed lifting lockdown restrictions as early as March, albeit he believes the UK government should do this in a staggered approach to prevent a third wave of COVID-19.
Depending on scientific data, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to begin easing lockdown restrictions and measures from March 8th, with reopening schools and educational institutions first in the order of priority.
According to Downing Street, Boris Johnson’s lockdown exit roadmap will be published the week starting February 22nd and will lay out a three-stage easing plan.
Sources have said that England could return to the tiered approach, where some regions face stricter lockdown rules than others.
Although nothing has been confirmed yet, other sources have also suggested that the government could reintroduce the rule of six in March.
The Isle of Man lifts all lockdown rules
On February 1st, the Isle of Man eased all its lockdown restrictions after officials said the self-governing British Crown had eliminated COVID-19 for a second time.
The Isle of Man reopened schools, pubs, bars and restaurants, while also abolishing social distancing measures and mandatory mask-wearing after evidence suggested that the risk of COVID-19 spreading across the country was significantly low.
The news came after health officials confirmed the island – located between the UK and Ireland – only recorded 15 positive cases on Sunday.
Chief Minister, Howard Quayle MHK, commended the residents and citizens on the island for their “collective determination” and “community spirit” , which has almost allowed the Isle of Man to eradicate the virus from its shores.
However, with the rest of the world still grappling with the pandemic and emerging, ore contagious COVID variants, the Isle of Man’s borders will remain closed to all but residents and key workers.
According to health officials, the travel ban and strict isolation measures imposed on the island are why they remained restriction-free for most of the last year.