mylondon– We are now two weeks into the third national lockdown of the pandemic, and news of vaccine rollouts, mass vaccination centres and hints of a plateau in hospital cases offer some relief to the bleak winter lockdown.
When the Prime Minister announced the lockdown on Monday, January 4, he said that measures would be reviewed in February, after around six weeks.
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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said that the Government now plans to lift restrictions in “phases” from early March, once the most vulnerable people in society have been vaccinated.
There are a few milestones that need to be reached to make sure lockdown can be safely ended in the spring, and we should expect a return to the tier system once the national restrictions cease.
Raab has insisted that lockdown controls will not be removed in one “big bang”.
As the lockdown continues, vaccinations are now becoming available to everyone over 70 and the clinically vulnerable, as 3,791,594 people have been vaccinated from December 8, 2020 to January 16.
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Raab has said that the Government is aiming for 88 per cent of those most at risk of dying of coronavirus to have their first jab by mid-February, and 99 per cent of this group to be vaccinated by early spring.
Meeting these vaccination targets is key to easing the lockdown as planned in March.
Here are the key dates and milestones set by the Government that you need to know about over the next few weeks and months, and when the national lockdown might end.
January 24 – All older care home residents and their carers will have had first dose
Calls have been made by care groups for daily vaccination figures so they can see if the Government is on track to have offered vaccines to all care home staff by January 24 as promised.
The figures will also help care groups address any issues with take-up in care homes.
Boris Johnson said on Friday that almost 40 per cent of elderly residents have now been vaccinated.
January 31 – Two million vaccines a week
The Government has said that “by the end of January” they will have increased vaccination capacity so several hundred thousand people will get the jab every day, meaning by the end of the month at least two million people a week will be getting vaccinated.
Some 641,000 invitations were sent out last week and another 380,000 were due to go through letterboxes this weekend.
Another half a million letters will go out this week, NHS England said.
NHS England said the new vaccine centres would be able to administer “thousands” of jabs a week, scaling operations up and down according to vaccine supplies.
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February 15 – 13.9 million most vulnerable offered first dose
On January 4, Boris Johnson first set out the target of offering the first dose of a vaccine to the top four priority groups, identified by the Government’s main advisory body on vaccinations by February 15.
- Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers.
- All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers.
- All those 75 years of age and over.
- All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.
The total number of people in these categories in the UK was initially estimated to be 15 million people, but in a BBC Radio 4 interview today (Monday January 18) Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the total figure is 13.9 million people.
The target is specifically to “offer” people the first dose.
February 22 – Lockdown could ease
The Prime Minister has said that he hopes lockdown could ease in February, but several senior ministers and health experts have since said it’s unlikely lockdown will end in the next few weeks.
Senior Minister Michael Gove has said that lockdown restrictions would likely last into March, while Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said that restrictions will not disappear in one “big bang” and we should expect a return to a tier system.
Raab told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “The aim is by the middle of February to have 88 per cent of those most at risk of dying of coronavirus with their first jab, and by the early spring to have 99 per cent – so that is the milestone if you like.
“I think it is true to say that when we get to a situation in the early spring, perhaps March, if we succeed in hitting those targets – we have made good progress so far – we can start to think about the phased transition out of the national lockdown.