BRITAIN'S lockdown may be extended into March if the vaccine rollout is too slow, Michael Gove warned today.
The Cabinet minister insisted that the Oxford and Pfizer jabs were the key to the lockdown ending, after Boris Johnson introduced a fresh seven-week national ban last night.
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He told everyone to stay at home until at least the middle of February, and for people to only leave their homes for essential reasons.
The PM set an ambitious target of getting the 13million most vulnerable people vaccinated by the middle of February, and after that lockdown measures can begin to be eased.
However, ministers face a mammoth uphill task to get to that point, which government medical advisers have said will stop 99 per cent of hospitalisations.
By the middle of February, the PM said the nation was expected to have been offered to everyone in the top four priority groups – all people in care homes and carers, everyone over the age of 70, all frontline health and social care workers, and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.
Just over one million vaccines have been dished out so far – with the Oxford jab coming into hospitals this week.
He said today that the lockdown may have to continue if the deadline is not met.
Progress would be reviewed in the final week of lockdown – the 15th of February – but March was the point at which restrictions would likely be lifted, he said.
He told Sky News: "We can't predict with certainty that we will be able to lift restrictions in the week commencing February 15-22.
"What we will be doing is everything that we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated, so that we can begin to progressively lift restrictions.
"I think it is right to say that as we enter March we should be able to lift some of these restrictions but not necessarily all."
Restrictions won't all be lifted at once, with them "progressively" loosened, he added.
He added: "One of the things that this dreadful virus has shown is that it's very, very difficult to make predictions weeks out.
"But we can't, at this stage, make a hard and fast 100% prediction about what we'll be able to do."
He warned of "very, very difficult weeks ahead" as Britain battled to reduce the spread of the virus, the NHS struggling to cope, and the vaccine being rolled out as quickly as possible.
The UK is in a "race against time" against the new variant, which spreads even faster, the Cabinet minister said.
Today Tory MPs were more pessimistic about England's chances, with Tory MP David Davis predicting: "I suspect it's the end of March or April before we get out" of lockdown.
From today, people in England will only be able to leave their house for a certain number of allowed reasons.
Schools will be shut again, with only the children of key workers of vulnerable children permitted to attend.
The drastic intervention will last for at six weeks.
Boris has said the huge spike in cases – with 58,000 recorded today alone – has forced him to act.
And the Covid alert level is going up to five for the first time too, the highest level of alert meaning the NHS may be overwhelmed within three weeks.
Similar rules will be in place in Scotland, too, with Wales and Northern Ireland already under their own restrictions.
All the reasons you can leave your home during lockdown
- Work: If you have to go to work as you really can't work from home, this will be allowed. Key workers such as those who work for the police, or NHS, will be permitted to do so
- School and childcare: Schools are open only for the kids of key workers or vulnerable pupils, but people can carry on accessing other childcare
- Exercise: Boris will continue to allow unlimited exercise outdoors. That means people can carry on going for walks, runs and other forms of exercise outdoors if they wish. You can do that with your household, support bubble or on your own with one person from another household
- Food, drink & supplies: People will still be allowed out to collect food and drink – such as at the supermarket, or take-aways
- Medical appointments: Everyone will be urged to continue to attend hospital and doctor appointments if they need to
- To escape injury or harm; those at risk of harm are allowed to leave their current home and move elsewhere
- To provide care for vulnerable people, or as a volunteer: people will still be allowed to travel to care for people who need it, or attend volunteer work too
- Harm and compassionate visits – you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment.
- Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment
- Communal worship and life events – You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony. You should follow the guidance on the safe use of places of worship and must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble
- Weddings, funerals and religious, belief-based or commemorative events linked to someone’s death are all subject to limits on the numbers that can attend, and weddings and civil ceremonies may only take place in exceptional circumstances – like when someone is terminally ill
- To fulfil legal obligations or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property
- You can also leave to vote in an election or referendum
- You are still allowed to move home
Other services you can still visit are:
- The NHS and medical services like GPs and dentists.
- Jobcentre Plus sites
- Courts and probation services
- Civil registrations offices
- Passport and visa services
- Services provided to victims
- Waste or recycling centres
- Getting an MOT, if you need to drive when lawfully leaving
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