Boris Pledges to ‘Look at Potential’ of Relaxing Restrictions Next Month, But No Promise Lockdown Would Be Lifted

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sees how a dose of the Oxford/Astra Zeneca Covid 19 vaccine is prepared for a mobile vaccination centre at Barnet FC's ground at The Hive, on January 25, 2021 in London, England. Government figures show that 6.3 million people across …
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that before mid-February, his government will be “looking at the potential of relaxing some measures”. However, he did not state whether actual easing of lockdown could follow.

Mr Johnson told Sky News on Monday: “We’re looking at the data as it comes in. We’re looking at the rates of infection. As you know the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] groups one to four [on the priority list] will be vaccinated by the 15th of February.

“Before then we’ll be looking at the potential of relaxing some measures.”

A Number 10 spokesman later clarified that the government would only be “looking at” the status of infections and what restrictions could be lifted before the middle of next month — not necessarily that lockdown would be eased in February.

“…he was making the point that ahead of February 15, which as you know is the review point, we will look at that evidence closely, and that will inform what we may or may not be able to ease from the 15th onwards,” his spokesman said.

The remarks are the closest indication yet from the government that it is considering an exit strategy from England’s third coronavirus lockdown. When Prime Minister Johnson announced the measures on January 4th, he refused to give an end date — hinting at only a soft deadline of mid-February, with senior minister Michael Gove suggesting less than 24 hours later a date in March. When the law was put before MPs, the provisions were given an expiration of March 31st — almost three months.

The timeline kept getting longer. The prime minister said last week it was “too early to say” whether lockdown could begin to be lifted by Spring, while Environment Secretary George Eustace said life might start to get back to normal by “late Spring, early Summer”. On Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “we’re a long, long, long way” from an exit strategy.

It was revealed this week that the government had extended powers for local governments to shut pubs, restaurants, and public spaces until July 17th. However, it has also been reported that there may be a soft emergence from lockdown after Easter.

Sources speaking to The Telegraph say that the government is considering a “halfway house” after the holy days, during which schools would be opened and other restrictions lifted, with further relaxation after all over-50s are vaccinated.

Ministers are said to be interested in the plans, which would involve reopening non-essential hospitality venues like pubs ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall in June. However, a Downing Street spokesman denied that there were any measures being discussed to wind back restrictions in April, telling the newspaper: “It’s not a timetable under discussion.”

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