UK Lockdown to Continue Until Cases Fall Below 1,000 per Day: Report

EDINBURGH - JANUARY 26: Members of the public walk past a government poster reminding people to socially distance and abide by the lockdown restrictions on Princess Street on January 26, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland. As of today, nearly 104,000 have died due to covid-19 in the United Kingdom, according to …
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of moving the goalposts amidst reports that the British government will not lift lockdown restrictions until cases fall below 1,000 per day.

Mr Johnson is set to announce a “roadmap” to end the lockdown next week, with schools expected to reopen on March 8th. However, the plan is not likely to include any firm dates as to when life can return to normality in the United Kingdom.

A senior Whitehall source told the Daily Telegraph: “For any significant relaxation of lockdown, household mixing and reopening pubs, case numbers have to be in the hundreds, not thousands.

“The numbers are coming down quite fast, but the plan is likely to be high level and set out the tests that have to be met for restrictions to be released. There is real reluctance about committing to specific dates without knowing what the case numbers are doing.”

Senior Tories expressed concern that the government is once again trying to move the goalposts as the initial justification for the lockdown — to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed — has seemingly been sidelined in favour of reducing cases.

The chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbench MPs, Sir Graham Brady, said: “The case for the current lockdown was made on the grounds that NHS ICU [intensive care unit] capacity was about to be overwhelmed.

“Now the picture is profoundly different. All of the most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated. Positive test numbers, hospitalisations, deaths are all falling rapidly.

“The presumption should be that people are given back control over their own lives and we move from a world of arbitrary regulation to one where we are able to take responsibility for ourselves and each other. We cannot allow the goalposts to be moved every time we are about to reach freedom.”

Amid one of the more successful vaccination rollouts in the world, in which over 16 million people have been inoculated, including nearly everyone over the age of 70, Chinese coronavirus cases have fallen from a height of over 68,000 on January 8th to just above 10,000 per day as of Tuesday.

If the government does commit to reducing cases to bellow 1,000 per day, it would mean that infections would need to fall to levels not seen since last August.

Coronavirus deaths have also steeply declined in recent weeks, with deaths of people over the age of 80 falling by 53 per cent from January 28th to February 11th, as well as a 44 per cent drop for under-80s, according to an analysis conducted by the BBC.

On Tuesday, Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi refused to say what number of cases per day would be deemed sufficient for the government lockdown to end.

“The Prime Minister is right to say that where we are today in terms of number of people in hospital, in terms of case numbers per day, is still far too high, and we want to make sure we bring that right down. But I wouldn’t want to speculate on this until we see more data,” he told Sky News.

The government has also announced that it has added 1.7 million people to the so-called ‘shielding list’, meaning that they may be asked to refrain from re-entering society even when the lockdown is lifted.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.