MATT Hancock has set out the four key criteria for lifting the latest lockdown in England – including how well the vaccination program is working.
The Health Secretary suggested that the new restrictions may run until at least March as he laid out the conditions to relax the stay at home orders as coronavirus rips through the country.
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The Health Secretary vowed the third national lockdown in England would be the last – thanks to the vaccination program.
When asked if he believed this would be the last lockdown as more Brits were given jabs, Mr Hancock told the Health and Social Care Committee: "I do. Yes."
Mr Hancock told the Health and Social Care Committee lifting the lockdown did not hinge entirely on the number of people being hospitalised with coronavirus.
He warned that a new variant could threaten to push back the date England would finally be free of draconian restrictions even further.
Mr Hancock told MPs: "We've set out the conditions that we'll look at for the relaxation of the restrictions.
"Those are, that there isn't another major, new variant that is causing difficulties.
"The vaccination program is working, and the number of hospitalisations and deaths is coming down."
The Health Secretary said there were no "fixed thresholds" for any of the key criteria – but stressed ministers were always looking at the "direction" deaths and hospitalisations are travelling.
Boris Johnson has vowed to get 13 million people vaccinated in order to relax the tough restrictions.
But he warned yesterday the lockdown would end "not with a bang, but a slow unravelling."
Criteria for lifting lockdown
- No new variants
- Vaccination program is "working"
- Deaths are falling
- Hospitalisations are falling
Mr Hancock said that as more and more people were vaccinated, the number of people dying would undoubtedly fall – but the number of people being hospitalised with coronavirus would take longer.
He told MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee: "I am as confident as you can be, based on all the clinical advice that I have seen and all my own reading of the data, that the number of deaths in this country will fall – for any given number of cases – once the vaccine is rolled out to the vulnerable groups."
But he explained hospitalisations would not fall as fast because "people that are slightly younger spend longer in hospital, often because they survive when somebody who is very old and frail might not survive for as long."
The Health Secretary also warned people could need to have another vaccine in as little as six months, as the data was not yet clear on how long the jab provided immunity for.
"It might be every six months or every year," he said.
Mr Hancocks comments come as the PM prepares to hold a press conference this evening, laying out plans to super-charge the vaccination program.
Military personnel will be used across the country to help distribute the jabs to help meet the PM's ambitious target to vaccinate 13 million Brits by mid-February.
Government insiders insisted that the deployment was military planners rather than troops at this stage.
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