Lockdown review underway after UK hits vaccine target

  • COVID-19 lockdown review underway after the UK hits its vaccine target
  • UK Prime Minister confirms that more than 15 million of Britain’s most vulnerable people have been vaccinated against COVID-19
  • The first set of travellers escorted to designated quarantine hotels
  • Pound Sterling (GBP) exchange rates remain supported by COVID vaccine optimism

According to official statistics, the UK achieved its “ambitious vaccine target” over the weekend ahead of the deadline, after data showed that more than 15 million British residents had received their first COVID shots.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the UK’s vaccination milestone as an “extraordinary feat” on Sunday.

The UK’s COVID vaccine rollout has been seen as one of the government’s few successes amid the coronavirus pandemic. Britain has suffered significant economic damage compared to its peers and has the highest cumulative death toll in Europe.

However, with more than 15 million of Britain’s most vulnerable people protected against COVID-19 and a total population of approximately 67 million, the UK’s vaccine rollout is far more progressive than neighbouring countries.

That being said, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, could only speak on behalf of England when questioned if all four priority groups, including frontline health workers, had been offered a COVID-19 vaccine.

While Wales said that it had hit its target on Saturday, it remains unclear whether Scotland and Northern Ireland had offered vaccines to all community members that fall within the intended bracket.

According to recent reports, Scotland and Northern Ireland have already begun offering the vaccine to members in lower priority groups, making it difficult to discern whether Sunday’s was a universal achievement.

Nonetheless, health experts said that the UK is expanding its vaccination programme and targeting the following priority groups: all over-50s and those over 16 who are clinically vulnerable.

According to the NHS, more than 1 million people in these groups have already received invitations for their COVID shots.

It comes as official data shows that the UK’s coronavirus curve is following a downward trajectory, with less than 11,000 daily COVID-19 cases reported on Sunday and 258 deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test.

However, the declining infection rate and vaccination milestone have fuelled calls for the Prime Minister to lift all lockdown restrictions by April-end.

In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson from the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), which comprises 63 Tory MPs, they said that the UK’s heroic vaccine efforts should allow for the earlier easing of lockdown measures.

Although scientists have warned that lifting lockdown restrictions too early could trigger the third wave of COVID-19, CRG leaders have insisted that schools reopen on March 8th as previously planned, while pubs and restaurants make a return from Easter.

While Mr Johnson is keen to begin easing restrictions, he said that the government would analyse data before making any concrete decisions to avoid a “reverse ferret”.

UK lockdown lift plan

COVID-19 lockdown review to be announced February 22nd

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that his lockdown exit roadmap would ease restrictions on a cautious but irreversible basis, which has increased hopes of the third lockdown being the last in Britain.

While the pace of lifting lockdown restrictions will depend on scientific advice, Mr Johnson hopes to unveil target dates for easing coronavirus measures in his lockdown exit roadmap next Monday.

Government officials previously said that non-essential retail stores would more than likely reopen in April, while pubs, restaurant and bars will be allowed to resume trade in May.

However, pubs, bars and restaurants without outdoor seating areas may be authorised to resume trade in April.

However, the prime minister did double-down on his pledge to reopen schools on March 8th, albeit this is likely to be a phased return.

MPs are also believed to be devising plans to allow single household families to travel across the country and stay in self-catered accommodation for the Easter break.

However, Mr Johnson warned that this is speculative at the moment and any final decisions on exiting lockdown will depend on scientific data detailing the impact vaccines have had on hospitalisations, severe illness and deaths.

Despite admitting that he booked a summer holiday to Cornwall last week, British Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said it’s too early to return to normal given that the number of COVID-19 hospitalisations remains stubbornly high.

Still, those eager to travel abroad once travel restrictions are eased may find comfort in knowing that the Prime Minister has ruled out mandating COVID vaccine passports. Mr Johnson also said that Britons would not need to have vaccine certificates to prove immunity against the virus for domestic use.

However, given that some countries will only accept vaccinated travellers, the UK government is considering vaccine certificates to facilitate travel abroad.

It comes as the UK’s new travel rules go into effect, which has already seen several British arrivals escorted to designated quarantine hotels.

First arrivals into the UK taken to quarantine hotels

The first set of passengers arriving from the UK’s “red list” countries were escorted to quarantine hotels on Monday, to begin their 10-day hotel isolation.

According to recent reports, more than half a dozen coaches were seen leaving Heathrow airport on Monday to drop passengers off at the Radisson Blue hotel..

While the Heathrow arrivals were required to pay GBP 1750 for their accommodation, board and COVID testing, guests also have access to WiFi, smart TVs and other amenities during their stay.

Matt Hancock said that the new operation had been running smoothly since its 4 AM launch and defended the system after concerns were raised about passengers from “red list” countries mixing with arrivals from other destinations inside the airport.

Despite the introduction of more stringent rules, which are expected to deliver another significant blow to the aviation industry, it has done little to dampen the UK’s recovery outlook and, in turn, benefiting pound Sterling (GBP) exchange rates.

Pound Sterling rallies to fresh highs against trading rivals

COVID vaccine optimism and broader risk sentiment continue to drive pound Sterling (GBP) exchange rates higher at the start of the new trading week.

The British pound to US dollar (GBP/USD) exchange rate rallied to USD 1.3916 on Monday – its best levels since April 2018 and the currency pair continues to trade near multi-year highs heading into New York trading hours.

Meanwhile, the British pound to euro (GBP/EUR) exchange rate advanced to EUR 1.147 and now looks set on breaching the EUR 1.15 level.

With successful vaccine rollouts being cited as the answer to exiting lockdowns and reopening the economy, pound Sterling’s (GBP) outlook looks very promising, especially as the UK has one of the most progressive vaccination programmes in the world.

While economic indicators out this week could blunt GBP upside, some foreign exchange (FX) analysts forecast the GBP/USD cross rising through the USD 1.40 level in the coming weeks due to the UK’s rapid vaccine rollout.

Even if scheduled economic data disappoints, any downside in pound Sterling (GBP) exchange rates could be limited amid growing hopes that Britain’s vaccination programme could trigger a swift economic rebound in Q2 2021.

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