Demands to end lockdown restrictions by May rejected by government - despite vaccine success

Government ministers have been cautious around the subject of reopening the country post-lockdown. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Government ministers have been cautious around the subject of reopening the country post-lockdown. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The government is pushing back against Conservative MP demands to see an end to all coronavirus restrictions by May.

After England met its target of offering a Covid-19 vaccination to all four top priority groups, backbencher MPs have been calling for a swift timetable for getting the country out of the current lockdown.

However, government ministers have rejected these calls, warning that reopening too quickly would risk undoing the progress made so far in tackling the pandemic.

15 million Covid jabs

In a video posted on social media on 14 February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson heralded the success of the vaccination programme thus far, with a milestone of 15 million jabs being delivered.

Prior to this announcement, however, members of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) had released a letter to the PM which suggested that once the next vaccination target - first injections offered to top nine priority groups - was met, there would be "no justification" for lockdown restrictions to remain.

The CRG is a group of around 60 Conservative backbenchers who are lockdown-wary and want restrictions lifted as soon as possible.

Foreign Secretary dismissed this claim, telling Sky News: "We’re not making what feels to me a slightly arbitrary commitment without reviewing the impact the measures have had on the transmission, and the hospital admissions.”

Chair of the CRG, Mark Harper, hit back at this comment, saying that 99 per cent of people at risk from death from coronavirus and 80 per cent liable of being hospitalised because of it would receive their jab as part of the top nine priority groups.

He told the BBC: “It’s not arbitrary at all...It’s completely tied to the rollout of the vaccination programme, and the fact you’re then protecting the most vulnerable people from death and serious disease from Covid.

“We don’t think there’s a strong case at all for any legal restrictions remaining in place.”

Currently, the only date marked out for a shift in restrictions is 8 March, when schools may reopen.

The Prime Minister is set to reveal more details about the path out of lockdown in th week commencing 22 February after he has reviewed data on coronavirus in the UK.