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THE UK does “not yet have enough data to know exactly how soon it will be safe to reopen our society and economy,” says Boris Johnson.
The Prime Minister has announced that lockdown measures will remain in place until at least March 8.
Mourners at an East London cemetery which has significantly increased the number of new graves amid the covid-19 pandemic in the UKCredit: Getty Images – Getty
When will lockdown end in the UK?
On January 27, the PM announced that lockdown restrictions could start to lift – but not completely – from Monday March 8.
He told the House of Commons that “by the 8th of March we hope it will be safe to begin the reopening of schools… with other economic and social restrictions being removed thereafter as and when the data permits.”
The Covid Recovery Group – made up of lockdown-sceptic Conservative MPs – had urged the Government to begin unlocking from early March, when vaccinations for the most vulnerable are hoped to have taken effect.
However their demand comes amid an announcement from the Government that coronavirus deaths have passed 100,000.
It is the smallest nation to soar over the 100,000 mark, and the UK has one of the the highest death tolls relative to its population.
To put the shocking figure into perspective, this is Wembley Stadium at full capacity – plus 10,000 more people.
And separate data published by statistics agencies places the toll far higher – at 115,000.
Victoria Park in east London was busy on January 23, during the third lockdownCredit: London News Pictures
The PM said: “We do know that we remain in a perilous situation with more than 37,000 patients now in hospital with Covid – almost double the peak of the first wave.
“But the overall picture should be clearer by mid-February.
“We will also know how many people are in hospital with Covid which we simply can’t predict today.”
Mr Johnson also said: “We will be in a better position to chart a course out of lockdown, without risking a further surge that will overwhelm the NHS.
“When parliament returns from recess in the week commencing the 22nd of February, we intend to set out the results of that review, and publish our plan for taking the country out of lockdown.
Millions of jabs have been given already to our most vulnerableCredit: PA:Press Association
More than six million people have now received their Covid jabs at hubs, and other vaccines will be added in the weeks ahead, to boost supplies.
The third lockdown restrictions were initially expected to last until mid-February.
Mr Johnson told politicians: “I know everyone yearns to know how much longer we must endure these restrictions, with all their consequences for jobs, livelihoods and… our children.
“We will not persist for a day longer than is necessary, but nor can we relax too soon.
“If we do, we run the risk of our NHS coming under greater pressure, compelling us to reimpose every restriction and sustain them for longer.”
Members of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guard set up a Covid jab centre in Drumchapel, Glasgow, January 20Credit: Getty Images – Getty
Mainland Scotland and some islands are in lockdown with guidance to stay at home, except for essential purposes.
These restrictions will remain in place until at least mid-February.
All of Wales is currently in lockdown.
Health minister Vaughan Gething has warned not to expect “a significant unlocking” of the current coronavirus restrictions following a review this week, reports the South Wales Argus.
The Welsh Government is due to review the country’s Covid restrictions towards the end of January.
First minister Mark Drakeford is expected to make an announcement on any decision on Friday, January 29.
Northern Ireland‘s lockdown began on December 26.
Its current stay-at-home regulations were recently extended, and are in place until March 5, 2021, because of a spike in NI’s death toll.
The restrictions will be reviewed on February 18, 2021.
After Covid deaths soared to over 100,000, Home Secretary Priti Patel has finally announced quarantine hotels for those arriving in the UKCredit: HOC/JESSICA TAYLOR
When is the next lockdown review?
In Scotland, current lockdown measures will be kept under consideration and Parliament will be updated following a review by the Cabinet on February 2.
The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, said the lockdown would continue till Friday January 29, when restrictions will be reviewed again.
Northern Ireland‘s lockdown will be reviewed in mid-February, with First Minister Arelene Foster urging people to work together and follow public health measures to “overcome this dreadful virus”.
In England, the current lockdown laws end on March 31.
In an update on England’s situation, relayed on January 27, Mr Johnson said the “overall picture should be clearer by mid-February”.
“In the week commencing the 22nd of February, we intend to set out the results of that review, and publish our plan for taking the country out of lockdown,” he added.
Brits have been battling snow and ice to get their Covid inoculationsCredit: Alamy Live News
How will lockdown end in the UK?
The number of coronavirus infections and deaths must drop substantially before the UK’s lockdown restrictions can be eased.
As far as experts and government officials are concerned, measures can be eased once the roll-out of the massive vaccination effort has hit targets.
The PM previously said that when the four priority groups have been inoculated by mid-February, “we’ll look then at how we’re doing”.
Mr Johnson explained that emerging from lockdown will be “gradual” as legislation allows it to continue until March 31.
He told MPs earlier in January: “As was the case last spring, our emergence from the lockdown cocoon will not be a big bang but a gradual unwrapping.
“That is why the legislation… runs until 31 March.
“Not because we expect the full national lockdown to continue until then.
“But to allow a steady, controlled and evidence-led move down through the tiers on a regional basis – carefully, brick by brick, as it were, breaking free of our confinement but without risking the hard won gains that our protections have given us.”
Linda Magistris, founder of the Good Grief Trust, warned of the “tsunami of grief and mental health issues this year and next year” over the impact of the ongoing pandemic.
PM Boris Johnson on his way to the House of Commons on January 27Credit: Reuters
Will the Tier system return?
Once lockdown is eventually lifted, under the government’s plans to ease restrictions the Tiers system will return, Dominic Raab has confirmed.
Re-introducing this system will help the UK gradually return to normal, while protecting the health service, and its overworked frontline staff.
The foreign minister said easing measures will “not happen in one big bang” – they will be “phased out” in individual regions.
To help ease the number of Covid deaths and infections, Priti Patel has been discussing quarantine hotels for travellersCredit: PA:Press Association
When will schools reopen?
The earliest that England’s schools will reopen is from Monday March 8, the PM said.
He told the House of Commons on January 27: “The first sign of normality should be pupils going back to their classrooms.
“I know how parents and teachers need as much certainty as possible, including two weeks’ notice of the return of face-to-face teaching.
“So I must inform the House that it will not be possible to reopen schools immediately after the February half-term.
“I know how frustrating that will be.”
He said he was aware of the impact of the lockdown on people’s mental health.
The PM added: “Our plan for leaving lockdown… if we achieve our target of vaccinating everyone in the four most vulnerable groups, with their first dose by 15th February… then those groups that have developed immunity to the virus about three weeks later, by 8th March, we hope it will be safe to begin the reopening of schools.”
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that schools will be told about reopening once infection rates fallCredit: refer to caption.
How will the Covid vaccine help end lockdown?
The UK’s vaccine programme must reach a critical mass to help end the third lockdown.
Britain was the first country to begin rolling out the jabs developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca against Covid.
Sage scientist Professor John Edmunds has warned that lifting restrictions too soon would be a “disaster” even with the ambitious vaccine rollout.
A paper published on January 22 suggested that easing restrictions too early could lead to another wave of Covid, and cause tens of thousands more deaths.
And the PM told politicians: “So far, our efforts do appear to have reduced the R rate, but we do not yet have enough data to know exactly how soon it will be safe to reopen our society and economy.”
He explained that England also doesn’t as yet have “enough data” to gauge the full effect of vaccines in blocking transmission – nor the extent and speed to which the vaccines will reduce hospitalisations and deaths.
It’s too soon, also, to know how quickly the combination of the vaccines and the lockdown can be expected to ease the pressure on the NHS.
The PM told Commons that understands the pressures Brits are underCredit: PA:Press Association
The government hopes to have given one dose of a coronavirus vaccine to about 15 million people who are most at risk by mid-February, potentially allowing some relaxation of the restrictions.
Mr Johnson told MPs that 6.9million people have so far received a first dose, as of January 27.
Whether the UK can exit lockdown is “highly dependent” on two things; how many people accept their offer of a jab, and whether the vaccine can actually reduce the spread of the virus.
The vaccines, from Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca, have been shown in clinical trials to help stop someone from getting severe disease, or dying.
They have not yet been shown to prevent someone from silently carrying the virus, although early indications suggest that they do.
It could be at least several months before that crucial question is answered.
Millions of Brits have already received the Covid jabCredit: AFP or licensors
How many national lockdowns have there been in the UK?
The UK is currently under its third lockdown.
The first lockdown started on March 23, 2020, and restrictions lasted into July.
The second UK lockdown was announced on October 31, despite the Prime Minister vowing to do “everything in his power” to avoid the measures.
The measures came into force on Thursday, November 5, and ended on December 2.
On January 4, 2021, the third national lockdown was confirmed.