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UK News 'It's on all of us': Hancock warns easing lockdown could be slower than PM's timeline

11:06  23 february  2021
11:06  23 february  2021 Source:   news.sky.com

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a train crossing a bridge over a body of water: The government aims to ease lockdown in four stages over the next four months © PA The government aims to ease lockdown in four stages over the next four months

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned the government's timeline for unlocking coronavirus restrictions won't be sped up - and could even be slowed as ministers remain "vigilant" against infection rates.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out a four-stage roadmap for lifting England's lockdown over the next four months, with a five-week gap between each stage.

Some Conservative MPs have complained the roadmap, beginning with the return of all pupils to schools on 8 March, doesn't remove restrictions fast enough.

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  Prudence and caution for PM over the next seven days after vaccine success Considering it was such a big deal, there was - somewhat surprisingly - no gloating or triumphalism from Boris Johnson at his latest Downing Street news conference. © Imagebridge Boris Johnson said it was 'no moment to relax' after reaching the first vaccine target Yes, he said in his opening remarks that vaccinating 15 million people by the government's target date of 15 February was "an unprecedented national achievement".But then, straightaway, the prime minister said it was "no moment to relax".It was a huge step forward in the fight against COVID, but only a first step, he warned the public.

But, speaking to Sky News, Mr Hancock described the five-week gap between each stage of easing restrictions as "vital".

"It's very, very important that we can see the impact of one step before taking the next step," he said.

"There's a vital need to keep watching the data and for all us, the whole of society, to stick with this plan.

"We want to be able to hit those milestones, but we will be vigilant and watch what's happening to make sure it's safe to make each move.

"The prime minister set out the four tests we will apply before announcing each move can go ahead.

"Of course we want to make the moves at the dates that are set out.

"But it's on all of us to make sure we can by continuing to follow the rules between now and then as the vaccine rollout continues and as the really, really positive impact of those vaccines takes effect.

The importance of reducing Covid cases before easing lockdown rules – and keeping them low when we reopen

  The importance of reducing Covid cases before easing lockdown rules – and keeping them low when we reopen An NHS boss has said infection numbers need to drop below 50,000 before easing lockdownDaily case numbers across the UK in February have been roughly between 15,000 and 20,000. While they have reduced from the high of more than 80,000 at the end of December, the country is still a long way off from the picture last summer. In July – when many businesses in England were allowed to reopen -daily case numbers were below 1,000 before rising through the rest of the summer and into September.

"This is on all of us."

Mr Hancock said that ministers were "absolutely determined" to come out of England's third national lockdown "as fast as safely possible, but no faster", with the aim of making the removal of restrictions "irreversible".

a woman holding a sign: The government aims to ease lockdown in four stages over the next four months © PA The government aims to ease lockdown in four stages over the next four months

"This isn't just about choices the government makes, it's actually about how everyone responds and pulls together," he added.

"So, for now, it is so important that people stick to the existing rules.

"We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and the best way is for everybody to keep abiding by the rules, as they are in very, very large part."

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The health secretary hailed data published by Public Health England on the impact of the UK's vaccination programme, which has so far seen more than 17.7 million offered a first dose of a COVID vaccine.

"The evidence published by Public Health England yesterday demonstrates that there is a reduction of around 70% in your chance of catching the virus, and there's obviously a link from that to transmissibility," he said.

"If you don't have the virus, you can't easily transmit it. And then an even bigger impact in terms of death and hospitalisations.

"So this is a really, really good result. I had confidence we would get a vaccine, I have huge confident in the NHS to rollout the vaccine and it's wonderful to see the effect of the vaccine saving lives in the UK right now.

"Not just in a lab, not just in a trial, but the vaccines are saving lives right now."

Summer schools to help children catch up on lost learning .
The Prime Minister has pledged an extra £400 million of funding as part of the Government’s catch-up programme.The Prime Minister has pledged an extra £400 million of funding – on top of the £300 million announced in January – as part of its education recovery plan following months of school closures.

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