PMQs: Boris Johnson promises 'roadmap' out of lockdown
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Professor Neil Ferguson, dubbed ‘Professor Lockdown’, predicted there would be half a million Covid deaths in the UK if it did not introduce tough restrictions at the start of the pandemic last spring. The scientist has been a fierce advocate for strict measures to curb the spread of the virus.
But now, he has said the rapid rollout of the UK’s vaccination programme could see lockdown measures largely lifted by May.
He said: “Hopefully, if everything plays out like our best estimates would suggest it might – and there’s a lot of uncertainty around those estimates – then by May timeframe I think it’s realistic to be in something akin to Tier Two.
“And maybe if there are areas with very low incidence by that time, we’d move to Tier One type measures.”
Under England’s previous Tier One restrictions, people could meet up with others from different households both indoor and out in groups of up to six.
Hospitality could open and drinks be served without the need for a “substantial meal” to accompany it, and sporting events were allowed to let in up to 4,000 members of the public.
Speaking to Politico’s Westminster Insider Podcast, Professor Ferguson said: “The lockdown has really driven down cases quite fast.
“They’re basically halving about every 17 days at the moment or so, and that means in a month’s time – the Prime Minister’s talked about potentially reopening schools, we might have some bandwidth to do that, at least primary schools.
“And if we continue to see then a continued decline without large outbreaks, then perhaps starting to relax other aspects of society the following month.”
More than 13.5 million Brits have received a jab so far across the UK.
There were 13,494 new coronavirus infections yesterday confirmed by a positive test, a drop of 29 percent in a week, and drop of more than 80 percent since the peak of the second wave on just four weeks ago.
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Deaths have also plunged by 25.9 percent over the past seven days as the country begins to get a grip on the pandemic.
Professor Ferguson said it will be “a bumpy road” ahead but he was “hopeful” the current lockdown would be the last, adding the quicker the NHS can vaccinate the population, the quicker restrictions can be lifted.
The former Sage member said: “I’m hopeful it will be the final lockdown, so long as we are relatively cautious in coming out of this lockdown, I would say.
“If we relax too quickly without seeing the effect of each stage of relaxation, we may do what we’ve done before and relax too much, see a surge in case numbers, and still need to tighten up measures again.
“There’s also another issue here – the timing of relaxation is intricately tied up with the rollout of vaccine.
“The faster we can roll out vaccine, the higher the proportion of the population is immunised, the faster we can relax measures safely.”
However, while lockdown restrictions could be largely eradicated by May, Whitehall insiders have indicated social distancing and masks may be required until the end of the year.
“The more restrictions we have in place like social distancing rules the more we can do in terms of easing,” a Government source told The Times.
Saying the continued use of masks would help ministers relax restrictions in other areas, they added: “It has repercussions for the scale of any reopening.
“Restaurants, pubs and offices will all need to be Covid-secure.”
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