A senior minister has told Sky News the government ‘should be able’ to begin easing the new lockdown rules by March.
Michael Gove has explained that the public should not expect a sudden relaxation of the latest lockdown rules, but instead a ‘progressive’ easing of restrictions.
He added that the country is in a ‘race against time’ against the new variant as the vaccine is rolled out across the UK.
He also warned of ‘very, very difficult weeks ahead’ as we enter our third lockdown since the pandemic began.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Gove said that ministers will ‘review the progress we’ve made’ on February 15th, adding: “We hope that we will be able to progressively lift restrictions after that but what I can’t do is predict – nobody can predict – with accuracy exactly what we will be able to relax and when.
“What we do know is that the more effective our vaccination programme, the more people who are protected in that way, the easier it will be to lift these restrictions.”
When asked about the timeframe for easing restrictions Gove explained that the restrictions would be under constant review but that the government ‘can’t predict with certainty’ when the restrictions will be lifted.
He said: “What we will be doing is everything that we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated, so that we can begin to progressively lift restrictions.
“I think it is right to say that as we enter March we should be able to lift some of these restrictions but not necessarily all.”
New figures put the UK on a path which was expected to exceed 100,000 deaths by the end of the month, if no urgent action was taken.
As of midnight on Monday January 4th, the nation is back in lockdown. All non-essential shops have to close, people must stay at home and outdoor exercise must be limited to once a day.
Measures are expected to be reviewed during the half term week and no relaxation of the restrictions are expected before February 22nd. This means the lockdown will last a least seven weeks.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson explained in his address to the nation that the UK is entering ‘the last phase of the struggle’, adding: “With every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people.”
Schools will not reopen after February half-term, Boris Johnson confirms
Schools will not open after February half-term, the prime minister has confirmed.
Boris Johnson has announced that schools will not reopen after February half-term, but has promised a route out of lockdown.
The prime minister says ‘we don’t have enough data to judge the full effect of vaccines in blocking transmission’.
Adding: “What we do know is that we remain in a perilous situation.”
He goes onto explain that the government will be in a better position to chart a course out of lockdown by mid-February.
A review and plan for taking the country out of lockdown can be expected when parliament is back from recess in the week commencing February 22nd.
Mr Johnson explained that the ‘first sign of normality’ will be schools returning, however, it will not be possible for this to happen immediately after the February half-term.
He explains that if the vaccine target is hit by mid-February, and those groups developed immunity from the virus around March 8th, schools could reopen.
The prime minister acknowledged the ‘huge impact’ of school closures and pledged £300m of new money for tutoring and extra initiatives for summer schools.
Finishing his speech, the PM says: “As we inoculate more people hour by hour, this is the time to hold our nerve in the endgame in the battle against the virus.
“Our goal now must be to bide the extra weeks we need to immunise the most vulnerable and get this virus under control, so that together we can defeat this most wretched disease.”
Teacher dies on her 25th birthday after contracting coronavirus
‘Claudia was very special, kind, caring and a dedicated teacher’
Recently-qualified teacher Claudia Marsh died with coronavirus on her 25th birthday.
Claudia’s death has been described as ‘sudden and unexpected’ by the charity that helped her recover from an eating disorder a few years ago.
She had gone on to volunteer at the organisation, becoming a ‘beacon of hope’ for others.
Her mother, Tina Marsh, said she was ‘very proud’ and ‘blown away’ by the number of tributes after Claudia died at Liverpool’s Royal University Hospital on Wednesday.
Posting on Facebook, Ms Marsh said Claudia was a ‘beautiful daughter and incredible sister’ who was selfless with her work at the Merseyside-based charities, Talking Eating Disorders (TEDS) and The Whitechapel Centre.
Her mother said: “She loved giving back to people less fortunate than herself.”
Founder of TEDS and family friend Leigh Best described the death as ‘heartbreaking’, adding: “Claudia was very special, kind, caring and a dedicated teacher.
“She supported countless families across the UK. Claudia made her own little packs to give out to others with eating disorders with positive affirmations.
“She was full of positivity, kindness and hope, and had a smile that would brighten up the whole room.”
The Whitechapel Centre also released a statement where they said staff were ‘devastated’, adding she would leave behind a ‘legacy of care, dedication and enthusiasm’.
Throughout the pandemic Claudia spent her time providing food and clothing to those who need it, the centre said, adding: “Claudia always put others before herself and her memory will live on through the impact and contribution she made to our organisation.
“She was instrumental in bringing together our volunteer community.”
Opening schools is a national priority, government says
Schools Minister, Nick Gibb told the commons that schools in England will be reopen ‘as soon as possible’.
Responding to an urgent question brought by Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green, Mr Gibb said the government would ‘prioritise the reopening of schools as we begin the process of lifting lockdown restrictions’.
Ms Green went onto say that the government had ‘failed to give parents, children and staff the credible plan they deserve’.
Adding: “We simply don’t know what the government’s plan is for school reopening – other than what we read in the newspapers,”
“In recent days, we’ve had reports that the prime minister wants pupils back before Easter, the health secretary saying he wants pupils back after Easter, Public Health England saying overnight the primary schools are already safe to reopen – so which is it?
“What is the plan for full reopening? The schools minister mentioned some metrics but was vague about the required performance against them – can he give us some more clarity?”
Mr Gibb said it was the government’s ‘strong desire to reopen all schools, colleges and universities as soon as possible’.
“We are acutely aware of the damage to children’s education and development – particularly to the most disadvantaged pupils by being away from school and of the increased burdens placed on parents.
He added that the ‘government has been clear that education is a national priority’ throughout the pandemic.
“We had worked hard to keep all schools, colleges and universities fully open but scientific advice we received in January meant we had no choice but to close schools and colleges to all but vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.
“And to restrict in-person teaching in university to those studying to be future critical workers.” He said.
He added that there will be an announcement in the next few days as remote learning is no substitute for face-to-face learning.
“We want to give two weeks’ notice so parents can make arrangement for the care of their children and we will be making announcements in the next few days.” He said.
Chairman of the education select committee, Robert Halfon, told Mr Gibb that parents and children were suffering.
“We need to get our schools open again sooner rather than later,” he said.