Lockdown could be lifted in March – Vaccine success is key to freedom, says Dominic Raab

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He said people would then be expected to live under the Tiers system throughout spring. Mr Raab said that the government wanted to end the national lockdown as soon as possible. He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “By early spring, hopefully by March, we’ll be in a position to make those decisions,” he said.

“I think it’s right to say we won’t do it all in one big bang. As we phase out the national lockdown, I think we’ll end up phasing through a tiered approach.”

England was plunged into its third national lockdown on January 5, with non-essential shops shut and the closure of schools to all but a minority of pupils.

Ministers initially suggested that the lockdown could be eased in mid-February, with a review of the rules due this week, but the legislation allows it to continue until the end of March.

That has prompted concerns from many Conservative MPs who have called on Downing Street to provide a road map out of lockdown in the coming months.

At the end of this week, ministers will begin drawing up a timetable to end the full shutdown after they see the first evidence of the effect of the latest national lockdown.

Mark Harper, the Tory chairman of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, said people “need hope” and businesses “need a plan in order to survive”.

He wrote in The Sunday Telegraph: “That’s why this week, we need a draft plan for the progressive lifting of restrictions from March 8 so that the public, businesses and scientists can use it as the basis for a sensible debate, as the Prime Minister suggested on Friday.”

Some experts believe the move out of lockdown could be made too soon.

Professor John Edmunds told the BBC: “I think it would be a disaster if we removed restrictions in, say, the end of February when we have gone through this first wave of vaccinations.

“First of all, vaccines aren’t ever 100 per cent protective, and so even those that have been vaccinated would be still at some risk.

“Secondly, it is only a small fraction of the population who would have been vaccinated.

“If you look at the hospitalisations at the moment, about half of them are in the under-70s, and they are not in the first wave to be vaccinated.

“If we relaxed our restrictions we would immediately put the NHS under enormous pressure again.”

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