Back to normal by the summer - The government's route out of lockdown outlined

The Chief Medical Officer says the UK is past the peak of the current wave of coronavirus with cases, hospital admissions and deaths on a “downward slope” – What happens next?

'Stay at home.'
'Stay at home.'

The UK has been living under tough lockdown restrictions since the beginning of January, with the Prime Minister instructing people to stay at home.

Medical professionals now say the UK is ‘past the peak’ of the current wave of covid-19 and while Boris Johnson says there are “some signs of hope” with numbers of Covid patients in hospital falling, “the level of infection is still alarmingly high”.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “Provided people continue to follow the guidelines”, the UK is “on the downward slope of cases, of hospitalisations and of deaths”.

But warned another peak is possible, so does this mean we can come out of lockdown?

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What does the route out of lockdown look like?

It’s not exactly clear yet and it might not be for another few weeks, but Mr Johnson has committed to setting out his plan for England on February 22.

The Government’s approach has been described as “prudent and cautious.”

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Mr Johnson said: “We have got a timetable for the way ahead, we don’t want to be forced into reverse.”

Schools will be first to reopen, with the earliest date being March 8 for England and Northern Ireland.

Does the vaccine rollout make any difference to lockdown?

Yes and no. Prof Whitty said that it can take several weeks for immunity to build after having a jab.

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He added that while vaccines “probably reduce the risk of transmission”, scientists are “not absolutely confident about by how much”.

The Professor that the rate of virus within the community remains “incredibly high” so vaccines must be used alongside continued social distancing “to pull the rate of the virus right down”.

Will we get a summer 2021?

One expert advising the Government said things could be “more or less back to normal for the summer” if the vaccine rollout goes to plan.

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Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) member Professor Andrew Hayward said: “Once the most vulnerable people, particularly those over 50 and those with chronic illnesses, are vaccinated then yes I think we can see a significant return to normality.

“That, in addition to the fact coronavirus is a seasonal disease, I think will make a big difference and allow us to open up.

“I think what we’ll see is a phased opening up as the vaccination levels increase, and then we will be more or less back to normal for the summer, I would imagine.”

Will I be able to go abroad?

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock indicated that summer holidays this year might be staycations rather than trips abroad, adding he is “optimistic” people will have “a great British summer”.

Will we be in lockdown again this winter?

Prof Whitty said the virus “is not going to be eradicated from the globe or indeed eliminated from the UK” and could surge again in winter “because that’s what highly contagious respiratory viruses always do”.

Adding that it should not be a surprise to anyone that even with a successful vaccine rollout and the jabs working well “there will still be residual risk”.

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