Great Britain

Cabinet approves three-point plan to lift Covid lockdown by early March as hopes pinned on vaccine

A CABINET deal has been done to approve a three-point plan for lifting the coronavirus lockdown by early March, it has been reported.

Areas across the country are expected to go back into tiers once their Covid situation improves, with hopes pinned on vaccines getting them through.

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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.

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 to delay tier changes until most people are vaccinated, a process that would take until the summer at least.

LIFTING THE LOCK

Instead, ministers will begin drawing up a timetable for the end of lockdown at the end of this week once 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 some experts believe the move could come too soon.

Prof 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.”

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.

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.

Coronavirus vaccine - Latest figures behind the UK's vaccination programme

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