‘Very, very difficult weeks ahead’ as England and Scotland begin new lockdown
People in all of England and most of Scotland must now stay at home, except for a handful of permitted reasons, as new lockdowns begin in both nations.
The government “should be able” to begin easing England’s coronavirus lockdown in March, a senior minister reportedly told Sky News.
Michael Gove said the public should not expect a sudden relaxation of the COVID-19 rules, with restrictions being “progressively” relaxed instead.
He, along with the Prime Minister, warned of “very, very difficult weeks ahead” as the country battles to reduce the spread of coronavirus, which is being driven by the new variant.
Mr Gove added that as vaccines continue to be rolled out, the country is in a “race against time” against the variant.
He acknowledged that the government’s target of offering a COVID-19 jab to nearly 14 million people in the top four priority groups by the middle of February was “stretching”, but achievable.
Asked how long the lockdown could last, the Mr Gove said ministers would “review the progress that we’ve made” on 15th of February.
“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”.
“What we do know is that the more effective our vaccination programme, the more people who are protected in that way, the easier it will be to lift these restrictions”.
Pressured again for a timeframe, Mr Gove expressed:
“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”.
“I think it is right to say that as we enter March we should be able to lift some of these restrictions, but not necessarily all”.
This comes after Boris Johnson introduced a third national lockdown in England, with people told to stay at home, as they did during last March’s first lockdown.
Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said he has some “quarrels and criticisms” with the government over the latest lockdown, but added that “everybody recognises how serious this is”.
“This is a time where we all have to say we will support the restrictions and do what we can to make these work”.
Following the PM’s recent certainty about the safety of schools, it was also announced by Mr Johnson last night (Monday), that all primary schools, secondary schools and colleges are now closed, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
Mr Gove said Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, would update MPs on Wednesday on how pupils will be assessed at the end of the year.
In addition, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has just announced a financial package to businesses worth £4.6bn to help them through lockdown, with retail, leisure and hospitality businesses to receive up to £9,000 one-off grants.