Boris Says It’s ‘Too Early’ to Say If Lockdown Will End by Spring

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a storm basin near the River Mersey in Didsbury on January 21, 2021 in Manchester, England. A major incident has been declared in Greater Manchester after Storm Christophe caused flooding in the area, forcing thousands of homes to be evacuated. …
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The British government continues to avoid giving a deadline to the end of England’s third lockdown, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying it is “too early to say” if restrictions could even begin to be lifted by Spring.

Asked by the BBC on Thursday whether shutdown could be lifted by the next season, Mr Johnson said: “I think it’s too early to say when we will lift some of the restrictions.”

He added that “we’re looking at that February the 15th deadline”, by which time the government has committed to vaccinating the elderly, vulnerable, and frontline medical and care workers, and “we’ll look then at how we’re doing”.

The prime minister then suggested that the “contagiousness of the new variant”, which he admitted was “not more deadly”, was also a factor in the decision making on lifting restrictions.

Environment Secretary George Eustace said on Friday that life could “return to life much closer to normal” by “late spring, early summer” — if the mid-February target is hit.

While England’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said this week that it would be “insanity” to starting lifting lockdown “too quickly”.

Senior government ministers and Boris Johnson himself have been either pushing a potential deadline back further and further, or suggesting that no prediction could possibly be given at this time.

On January 4th, Prime Minister Johnson announced the third lockdown, unusually giving no end date other than hoping that restrictions could be lifted by mid-February “if things go well”. Less than 24 hours later, senior minister Michael Gove suggested some time in March. The day after, when the wording of the legislation was put before parliament, Mr Johnson admitted that it could last for almost three months.

The prime minister had said: “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 that this House will vote on later today runs until the 31st of 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.”

Ministers have also refused to speculate on a date, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying it was “impossible to know” when lockdown could be eased, and Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, saying it was even “too early” to tell if relaxation could be in time for Easter, with Good Friday falling on the 2nd of April.

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