UK Covid-19 lockdown will end in time for ‘great British summer’, Matt Hancock promises

The nationwide lockdown will be over in time for a “great British summer”, Matt Hancock has predicted as he said the “vast majority” of adults would be vaccinated against Covid-19 within the next six months.

Data on the effects that vaccinations have on the spread of coronavirus in Britain should be available within a fortnight, according to the Covid-19 response director at Public Health England (PHE) – but she warned that the end of lockdown should be done “very slowly, very cautiously” to avoid a resurgence in cases.

Ministers have said that all the current measures in England will remain in place until 8 March at the earliest. A full reopening “road map” will be published towards the end of this month.

‘Going really well’

The Health Secretary told the BBC: “The vaccine roll-out is going really well and that will help protect us all, but unfortunately we still don’t know when we’ll be able to lift the measures.” He added: “In six months we’ll be in the middle, I hope, of a happy and free Great British summer – I have a high degree of confidence that by then the vast majority of adults will have been vaccinated… I think we’re going to have a great summer but we’re going to have a tough few months between now and then.”

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Secretary of State of International Trade and Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss is seen outside Downing Street, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in London, Britain March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
Liz Truss said that the UK could ‘absolutely guarantee’ its delivery programme of the Covid-19 vaccine (Photo: Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, sounded a note of caution – warning that summer holidays may not be possible this year because of border closures to slow the spread of the virus. She told LBC: “We have to just focus on step by step and summer holidays, I’m afraid, are a lower priority than getting kids back to school.” Ms Truss also refused to rule out the prospect of some social distancing measures staying in place for the rest of the year.

Susan Hopkins of PHE said that infections in those aged 70 and above are already starting to fall, but added that it is “a bit early” to determine whether that is connected to the vaccination programme. She added: “We expect over the next two weeks to start seeing that impact of that vaccine in that age group and also an impact on hospitalisation.”

‘Very slowly, very cautiously’

She said the summer could be “similar to last summer”, with most curbs on everyday behaviour lifted, adding: “Any releases that we have will have to happen very slowly, very cautiously, watching and waiting as we go with a two week period to watch and see the impact of that relaxation, because it takes that to see what’s happening in the population.”

The Government’s scientific advisers have warned in an official paper that if the vaccine does not prove to have a strong effect on the transmission of coronavirus, as well as preventing serious illness in those who get the jab, the existing rules could have to stay in place for months longer. But the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group calculates that on the basis of the available evidence, vaccinations should cut the death toll by two-thirds by the end of this month.