Behind the scenes

How Covid-19 data will dictate Boris Johnson’s plan to end lockdown

Preliminary figures suggest vaccine campaign is cutting infections by around two-thirds

Boris Johnson last night delivered the news many have been waiting for when he pledged that the UK will soon take “cautious but irreversible” steps to lift lockdown restrictions. 

Speaking at the daily press briefing, the prime minister said “the data becomes clearer with every day that passes” after The Times reports he was presented with official studies that reveal the vaccine campaign is “starting to show an impact on key measures needed to ease lockdown”.

“Preliminary figures comparing elderly people who have received the vaccine with those who have not are starting to show that it is cutting admissions and deaths,” the paper says, while a separate study “testing thousands of healthcare workers for signs of asymptomatic infection” is beginning to show a drop in infections.

Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, told Times Radio that data on the impact of vaccines on hospital admissions and severe illness will be made public before Johnson announces his roadmap out of lockdown on 22 February

Johnson urged the public to be “optimistic but patient”, with hopes of a normal Easter being downplayed by government sources. The Telegraph reports that an official with knowledge of the emerging plans said it was “unlikely singing in church would be allowed in time for Easter Sunday”.

Despite the positive data emerging from studies, the lifting of lockdown measures will be cautious partly “because the government knows it has failed before” and has caused unnecessary deaths by “being too late to lockdown and too early to lift restrictions”, ITV says.

Experts have told the government “it’s too much to just hope vaccinations will make the problem go away immediately”, the broadcaster adds, with modelling by Imperial College London predicting a “significant wave of deaths as early as this summer, if we fully ease restrictions in July”.

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