politics

Michael Gove suggests third coronavirus lockdown might not end until March


The Cabinet Office minister said he could not give a firm date for when the Government would be able to lift restrictions and that any relaxation would depend on ensuring the most vulnerable were vaccinated. 

Mr Gove told Sky News: “It’s important to stress that we want to progressively lift restrictions, but what we need to do is to make sure as many people as possible – especially the vulnerable first – are vaccinated. 

“We will be able to review the progress we’ve made on the 15th of February, just before the traditional school half term.

“And 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.”

Mr Gove said that the more effective the vaccination programme is, the “easier” it will be to lift restrictions, but that ministers cannot predict “with certainty” whether measures could start to be eased from mid-February. 

He said: “We will keep these constantly under review but you are absolutely right… we can’t predict with certainty that we will be able to lift restrictions in the week commencing February 15-22.

“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.”

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Asked if the country would be in lockdown conditions until at least March, he replied: “You’re quite right to say it takes some time immediately after the vaccination for people to get the benefit of full immunity.

“We will keep these constantly under review. But you are absolutely right we can’t predict with certainty that we will be able to lift restrictions in the week commencing the 15th or 22nd.

“What we will be doing is everything we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated so that we can begin progressively to lift restrictions.”

He said the NHS was working “24/7” to ensure 13 million people are vaccinated by the middle of February.

<p>Cyclists pass through an almost-deserted Bank junction in the heart of the City of London&nbsp;</p>
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Cyclists pass through an almost-deserted Bank junction in the heart of the City of London 

/ PA )

All schools and colleges in England will be closed until after the February half-term, except for children of key workers and the vulnerable. However, early years settings such as nurseries, alternative provision and special schools will remain open.

The Prime Minister also said everyone should work from home unless it is impossible to do so, for example those in construction or key workers.

Mr Gove told Sky News that “just over a million people” have been given a coronavirus vaccine in the UK. He urged people to stay at home and follow the guidance as he warned the UK is facing a “race against time”.

“This virus is gathering at speed, it’s affecting more and more of us,” he said. 

“Our hospitals are facing unprecedented pressure.

“We all have a part to play in trying to reduce the spread of the virus, by staying at home and observing the rules. We hope the accelerating pace of vaccination will provide us with an opportunity to lift these measures in due course.”



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