Boris Johnson sketches route to lockdown review
The current national lockdown has been in place since early January.
LONDON — Boris Johnson has begun to sketch a roadmap out of lockdown in England.
The U.K. prime minister said the government would publish a review of the strict nationwide measures in late February, with the aim of opening schools — long promised as the first big change to the rules — after March 8.
It will come as some relief to people — including lawmakers in his own party — tired of the restrictive measures. But it marks a partial climbdown after the government had hoped to have children back at school in February.
Johnson too made clear, in the wake of data showing the U.K. had surpassed 100,000 deaths from the virus, that normal life remains a distant prospect.
“We will not persist for a day longer than is necessary, but nor can we relax too soon, because if we do we run the risk of our NHS coming under still greater pressure, compelling us to reimpose every restriction and sustain those restrictions for longer,” the prime minister told the House of Commons.
“Our goal now must be to buy the extra weeks we need to immunize the most vulnerable and get this virus under control, so that together we can defeat this most wretched disease, reclaim our lives once and for all.”
The government will conduct a review of the English measures in the week beginning February 15, at which point officials believe there will be sufficient data from the U.K. vaccination program, and vaccination drives abroad, to assess the impact on hospitalizations and deaths. Ministers are looking closely at results from Israel, the country which is leading the global race to vaccinate its people.
Data should also be available by then to show just how effective the current lockdown measures have been in driving down infections.
The results of that review will be presented to parliament in the week beginning February 22, when MPs return from a break. A plan will also be published with more details about how the lockdown could be lifted. It is currently unclear whether the government will return to the previous tiered system of restrictions that was in place before the national measures.
The week of March 8 should mark three weeks after the last people in the U.K’s initial vaccine priority groups have received their first dose of the vaccines, meaning the jabs should by then have taken effect on immunity levels.
There are hopes that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have control over their own public health measures, might be able to follow suit.
This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharma and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the health care policy agenda. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary trial.