Boris Johnson under pressure to end ALL lockdown rules despite worrying new data
Express– Tories worried about the impact lockdown is having on the economy and society have been calling for restrictions to be lifted as soon as possible to help the UK get back to normal. This morning it emerged the Government is planning to have given a jab to all over-50s by May, with senior backbenchers jumping on the date as the moment when lockdown should be lifted in their entirety.
A document released this morning by the Cabinet Office indicated local elections on May 6 would go ahead as planned because all over-50s would have received a jab and be protected from the virus.
It takes three weeks for immunity to build up after being injected, meaning the Government may be preparing to have given a first jab to all over-50s done by the middle of April.
The Government Office document gives insight into when Mr Johnson may be hoping to ease lockdown restrictions, but Mark Harper, who chairs the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said this afternoon there was no excuse for the UK to still be bound by any coronavirus rules once the most vulnerable are immune from infection.
He said: “These top nine groups account for around 99 percent of those that have died from Covid and about 80 percent of hospital admissions.
“It will be almost impossible to justify having any restrictions in place at all by that point.”
The Prime Minister has vowed to set out his roadmap to ending lockdown the week beginning February 22.
It is thought outdoor team and individual sports, as well as outdoor gatherings, could be possible within weeks of a planned return of schools from March 8.
However, further relaxations may remain for months longers, with some scientists even suggesting social distancing will be required until spring 2022.
He is facing the challenge of keeping his own MPs happy while also sticking to the guidance of the scientists based on the latest data.
Worrying new modelling by Imperial College considered by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggests there could be another 130,000 deaths from Covid even if Mr Johnson opts for a slow easing of lockdown.
Minutes from a Sage meeting on January 14 released today warn that even with the current rapid vaccine rollout the UK Covid death toll is likely to grow substantially over the next 18 months.
It says even if three million injections take place every week, “this would still lead to an additional 130,800 (103,200 – 167,600) deaths between now and June 2022”.
The Imperial team added continued high death numbers meant “a more cautious approach to gradually lifting (lockdown measures) may need to be considered than the ones modelled in this report”.
A review of the evidence available on the impact of the current lockdown and vaccinations will take place the week beginning February 15 and feed into the Prime Minister’s roadmap due to be presented the following week.
In a sign that the current measures are working, the reproduction number, known as the R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK fell to between 0.7 and 1, according to the latest Government figures – down from between 0.7 and 1.1 last week.
And estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested about one in 65 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between January 24 and 30 – compared with one in 55 the previous week.
Mr Harper has said “time is of the essence” to vaccinate as many people as possible to ensure lockdown could end in May.
Wycombe MP Steve Baker today pointed to the cost lockdown is having on the population as he urged the Government to relax restrictions as soon as possible.
He said: “Office of National Statistics figures show that the percentage of UK adults suffering from moderate/depressive symptoms rose from 10 percent to 19 percent – equivalent of an additional 4.6 million people – between March 20 and November 20.