UK

When will lockdown end? Prime Minister to set out road map for easing restrictions

More than five weeks into the third national the national R rate has fallen below one for the first time since July, but when will lockdown end?

The Prime Minister is set to give an update on when lockdown will end later this month.

The legislation for the lockdown, which began on January 6, lasts until March 31 but the speed at which measures are eased is reliant on Britain’s vaccination efforts.

Last month, Boris Johnson signalled the Government was targetting to reopen schools by March 8 and recent reports have suggested non-essential shops and pubs may reopen in April.

The Government is said to be set to hit its UK-wide target of offering a Covid-19 vaccine to people most at risk by Monday.

NHS England said the top four priority groups in England – people aged 70 and over, care home residents and staff, health and care workers and clinically extremely vulnerable patients – “have now been offered the opportunity to be vaccinated”.

It comes as Government data up to February 11 shows that 14,012,224 people in the UK have now received a first dose of the vaccine.

It comes as the reproduction number, or R value, for coronavirus is now estimated to be between 0.7 and 0.9 across the UK.

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This is the first time since July that R has been this low, and shows that lockdown restrictions are having an impact and the epidemic is shrinking.

But while scientists advising the Government believe cases of Covid-19 are dropping at a decent pace across England, they have warned that infection levels remain high.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing calls from Tory sceptics to ease the lockdown once the pressure on the NHS eases and deaths drop.

But scientists argue that case numbers are still too high for a significant loosening of restrictions.

They believe that only by driving case numbers to much lower levels can NHS Test and Trace and surge testing work properly.

With low case numbers, clusters of cases can be identified more easily and new mutations to the virus can be picked up, one Government scientific adviser said.


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