Lockdown: Neil Ferguson predicts easing of restrictions
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Lockdown restrictions came into force in early January as the country attempted to grapple with rising rates of coronavirus, mainly driven by the emergence of new and highly transmissible variants of Covid-19. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to unveil his “roadmap” for easing restrictions in England in less than 10 days. But when exactly will lockdown end?
Mr Johson today said he is “optimistic” about announcing plans for easing of coronavirus restrictions in England this month.
He is due to address the nation and outline his “roadmap” for getting England out of lockdown on Monday, February 22.
Speaking from Billingham in Teesside on February 13, he said: “I’m optimistic, but we have to be cautious.”
The PM added he wanted to avoid being “forced into” a “reverse ferret” or u-turn at a later date.
Mr Johnson repeated comments highlighting reopening schools as the first priority for lockdown easing.
In Scotland, the Government intends for schools to return on a phased basis from February 22 with children in early learning settings and childcare returning first.
Similar plans have been announced in Wales as well.
Mr Johnson previously said he wishes for schools to reopen on March 8, but conditions for this return have yet to be revealed.
The Prime Minister also outlined further industries that will likely see restrictions ease first, beginning with non-essential retail and then hospitality.
The PM said: “Our children’s education is our number one priority, but then working forward, getting non-essential retail open as well and then, in due course as and when we can prudently, cautiously, of course we want to be opening hospitality as well.
“I will be trying to set out as much as I possibly can in as much detail as I can, always understanding that we have to be wary of the pattern of disease.
“We don’t want to be forced into any kind of retreat or reverse ferret.”
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Mr Johnson’s statement comes after a senior member of the Conservative party warned the Government against “backsliding”.
Education committee chair Robert Halfon said some primary school children should return to classrooms this month.
He warned of his concerns about an “epidemic of educational poverty”.
Mr Halfon told Sky News: “What my concern is that, long after the coronavirus has gone, we’ll have an epidemic of educational poverty and a mental health crisis affecting young people.
“We’ve got to get our schools open. Despite the wonderful efforts of teachers and support staff, nothing is more important than getting children into school full-time and learning again.
“The risks to children are few, thank goodness, from this awful disease.
“We know that teachers aren’t at any more risk compared to other professions, although I would like to see teachers and support staff get priority for vaccination.
“So let’s get the schools open, let’s have no backsliding in terms of March 8, if we can’t get them open before, and get our children learning again.”
He also said ministers should consider extending the length of terms or school hours to enable pupils to catch up on missed learning.
Mr Johnson’s “optimistic” comments came after the Government confirmed it had undertaken more than 14m first doses of the coronavirus vaccine in the UK.
A further 530,000 people have received the second dose as well.
In addition, 15,144 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed on February 12, with 758 deaths reported.
In total, the Government’s dashboard shows 24,352 Covid patients are currently in hospital, with 3,036 on ventilation.
Speaking from Teesside, Mr Johnson echoes comments made by Health Secretary Matt Hancock indicating we will have to “simply live with “ Covid-19
He said: “A new disease like this will take time for humanity to adapt to, but we are.”
The PM added “new therapies are being discovered the whole time” to reduce mortality and improve treatments.
He said: “I do think that in due time, it will become something that we simply live with. Some people will be more vulnerable than others – that’s inevitable.”
Speaking to the Telegraph, Mr Hancock suggested by the end of 2021, Covid-19 could be an illness similar to the flu.
He said he hoped new drugs by the end of 2021 could make Covid a “treatable disease”.
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