Boris Johnson says he wants this lockdown ‘to be the last’

But prime minister warns that now is ‘no moment to relax’

Kate Devlin
Monday 15 February 2021 18:04 GMT
Boris Johnson says he wants this lockdown 'to be the last'.mp4

Boris Johnson has said he wants the current nationwide coronavirus lockdown “to be the last”.

But he almost immediately added that he could give no guarantee that he would not have to introduce restrictions for a fourth time, as ministers battle the coronavirus global pandemic.

Mr Johnson is under pressure from Tory MPs and others to change the rules quickly, after the government announced at the weekend that it had now vaccinated more than 15 million people.

But he warned that while the Covid vaccination programme was continuing to “power past” targets, ministers did not yet have enough data to ease the lockdown.

While the milestone was an “unprecedented national achievement” it was “no moment to relax”, he said.

At the press conference in Downing Street he said he hoped “there is not that much longer to go now” but he added that the threat from the virus remained "very real."

Next Monday he is due to unveil a road map setting out how the UK will return to normality, expected to start with the return of children to school.

Mr Johnson urged the public to be "optimistic but also patient" about the situation.

The prime minister said: "We want this lockdown to be the last.”

Earlier Mr Johnson had said the roadmap would lay out “cautious but irreversible” steps back to normality.

But he suggested he would resist calls from many of his own backbenchers for deadlines to reopen non-essential retail and hospitality and allow holidays.

Mr Johnson said that instead his plan would offer “earliest possible” dates when different controls could be relaxed.

The idea is modelled on a similar route out of lockdown ministers offered the public last year.

The first change will be the reopening of schools in England, which ministers hope can happen on March 8.

Schools have been told they will be given at least two weeks’ notice before they are expected to open their doors to pupils.

At the weekend a letter from the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Tory MPs said there would be no justification for “unnecessary restrictions” after over-50s get the jab in April.

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