The coronavirus vaccine has been hailed as one of the key parts of returning to normal life. This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his plan for easing lockdown restrictions this week, with the current vaccination programme and its success considered to be a key condition for lockdown easing. The UK’s coronavirus alert level has been lowered as the risk of the NHS being overwhelmed has “receded”.
Mr Johnson this week unveiled his plan for the easing of lockdown.
The four-step plan begins in March with the reopening of schools and colleges and continues in stages at five-week intervals until June 21.
The four conditions which must be met, including the vaccine programme continuing to plan, vaccines significantly reducing the number of deaths and those in need of hospital treatment, infection rates not risking a surge in hospital admissions, and new Covid variants not fundamentally changing the risk of lifting restrictions.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly said the Government will be focused on “data not dates” in terms of lockdown easing.
READ MORE: ‘We have a problem!’ Germany admit vaccination issues following U-turn
The pace of the vaccine rollout and downward trend in infections and deaths means the UK’s four chief medical officers (CMOs) have agreed that the nationwide alert level should move from level five – the highest – to level four.
The alert level moved to level five on January 4, but has now moved to level four.
A change in the alert level does not automatically mean restrictions can ease, but it helps to inform Government decisions on lockdown rules.
England’s Prof Chris Whitty, Northern Ireland’s Dr Michael McBride, Scotland’s Dr Gregor Smith, Wales’s Dr Frank Atherton, and NHS England’s Prof Stephen Powis said their decision was made because the number of cases in hospital was “consistently declining”.
The CMOs said: “The health services across the four nations remain under significant pressure with a high number of patients in hospital, however thanks to the efforts of public we are now seeing numbers consistently declining, and the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded.
“We should be under no illusions – transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high.
“In time, the vaccines will have a major impact and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they receive the offer.
“However for the time being it is really important that we all – vaccinated or not – remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines.
“We know how difficult the situation has been and remains to be for healthcare workers, we thank them for their immense effort, skill and professionalism throughout the pandemic.”