Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that “we are very close” to lifting the remaining Covid restrictions as he prepares to address the country to confirm whether the next step in the unlocking can take place.
The prime minister is expected to say the country can move to step 4 on the roadmap to lift the measures, but also warn that Covid-19 cases will increase as rules designed to suppress the virus are removed.
Mr Johnson will hold a press conference on Monday afternoon, while Health Secretary Sajid Javid will announce the plans to Parliament.
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Downing Street said the unlock would be based on four tests – the successful deployment of the vaccine, proof that the vaccine causes reduced hospitalizations and deaths, that infection rates are not at risk of increased hospitalizations, and that no new variant of worry derails progress.
The Prime Minister said: “We are very close to the last step of our roadmap to get out of lockdown, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning.
“While the phenomenal vaccine rollout has offered every adult some protection against the virus, and the crucial link between cases, hospitalizations and deaths is weakened, the global pandemic is not yet over.
“Cases will increase as we unlock, so as we confirm our plans today, our message will be clear. Caution is absolutely vital, and we must all shoulder our responsibilities not to undo our progress, making sure we continue to protect our NHS. “
Going to stage 4 was delayed for four weeks to ensure all adults had received a vaccine, and on Friday 80.3 million doses of the vaccine were given in the UK, with 45.7 million adults receiving a first dose (86.9%) and 34.5 million adults receiving both doses (65.6%).
Analysis from Public Health England (PHE) and the University of Cambridge suggests that vaccines have so far prevented an estimated 8.5 million infections and 30,000 deaths in England alone.
Downing Street also said the delay meant the end of restrictions was closer to school holidays, where transmission rates are expected to be lower.
But he also suggested that waiting even later in the year to reopen could put more pressure on the NHS as the health service grapples with winter illnesses such as the flu.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC on Sunday: “One of the things we have done, obviously we have the vaccination program, but we are already planning… the NHS is planning for the co -administration of the Covid boost from the beginning of September, with the flu, because we had very little flu circulating in the communities because of the confinement.
“So one of the big risks that worried me and others is a bad flu season, you could see 20,000 people die.”
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