Rishi Sunak categorically rules OUT speeding up lockdown exit despite success of vaccine roll-out and says he cannot ‘guarantee’ this lockdown will be the last

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak ruled out speeding up the nation’s exit from lockdown
  • He said Boris Johnson’s roadmap has ‘earliest dates by which things can happen’
  • He also said Government cannot ‘guarantee’ this will be final national lockdown

Rishi Sunak today categorically ruled out speeding up the nation’s exit from lockdown despite the success of the coronavirus vaccination drive. 

The Chancellor said the dates contained within Boris Johnson’s roadmap for easing restrictions are the ‘earliest dates by which things can happen’.  

He also said he could not ‘guarantee’ this will be the final national shutdown but insisted he hopes the roadmap will provide a ‘one-way ticket to getting our lives slowly back to normal’.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak today categorically ruled out speeding up the nation’s route out of lockdown

Boris Johnson unveiled his roadmap out of lockdown on Monday last week, setting out the earliest possible dates for each step of lifting restrictions. He has insisted he will stick to the plan

The rapid roll-out of jabs across the country has prompted some Tory MPs to demand a faster lifting of restrictions. 

Government data up to February 26 showed that more than 20million jabs have now been given. 

Of the 20,450,858 jabs given in the UK so far, 19,682,048 were first doses – a rise of 504,493 on the previous day.

Some 768,810 were second doses, an increase of 32,773 on figures released the previous day.

The Government is aiming to have given the first dose of the jab to the top nine most vulnerable priority groups – all those aged 50 and over – by mid-April. 

The second phase of the roll-out will then see jabs given to all remaining UK adults by the end of July. 

Falling infection rates have also fuelled calls for a swifter return to normal, with the PM having set a date of June 21 for all major restrictions to have been lifted. 

Asked if there is a possibility of rules being lifted earlier than planned, Mr Sunak told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘No, that is not what the Prime Minister has said. These are the earliest dates by which things can happen.

‘But I think you are right that we should take comfort and confidence from the fact that the roll-out is going well, that the data that is coming back about the vaccine’s effectiveness is also coming back strongly and hopefully this is a cautious but irreversible one-way ticket to getting our lives slowly back to normal.

‘That is what we all want to see, but it is right that for now we follow the rules we go and get our vaccine when we are asked and hopefully we can make progress.’

Asked if he could envisage the country ever having to go back into another full lockdown, the Chancellor replied: ‘As we have said, we can’t make guarantees but we are trying to do everything we can and be as cautious and careful as we can so it is irreversible.’ 

The PM’s lockdown exit roadmap begins with the return of schools in England on March 8

The plan finishes with Step 4, not due to be taken before June 21, when all remaining legal limits will be lifted

Mr Sunak echoed a similar sentiment during an interview with Sophy Ridge on Sky News as he said: ‘Well, what the Prime Minister laid out was a series of steps with appropriate gaps between them for us to understand the impact of each step and as he has said what we want is a cautious but irreversible approach.

‘That is why we have taken the approach that we have and those will be the earliest dates that we think we can do the various things that we have laid out.

‘But we are doing everything we can to make sure that it is hopefully irreversible. That is what we want to see.’

Mr Sunak said it is right to take a ‘cautious approach’ because businesses do not want to suffer from a ‘stop start’ easing of rules.   

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