Boris Johnson promises 'light ahead' as he plans to lift lockdown
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On Monday the Prime Minister unveiled his plan to end restrictions for good by cautiously easing restrictions in four stages. His blueprint would see most coronavirus measures lifted completely on June 21.
There will be at least five weeks in-between phases of the plan to allow the Government to assess the impact of each set of loosened rules.
However, Mr Johnson is facing backlash for the pace of the programme with some Tory MPs wanting restrictions to end sooner.
Mark Harper, chair of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group (CRG), last night said “some serious questions arise from the assumptions on which the modelling is based” for lifting lockdown rules.
He said the evidence indicated the vaccination rollout was going much better than the assumptions made in modelling.
The former Government chief whip indicated scientific data suggested the protection provided from the first and second doses of the jab was much higher than in the modelling.
He also said the assumption that only 85 percent of 50 to 80 year olds would get a vaccine was far short of the 96 percent so far who have got an injection when offered one.
Mr Harper said: “There is a clear and concerning pattern of assumptions not reflecting the much more positive reality.
“At the very least, this raises some serious questions about the extent to which these models should be relied on.”
Earlier this week deputy chairman of the CRG, Steve Baker, said “we need reform to drive up the standard of modelling” and introduce “competitive expert advice” to ensure the country as not remaining in lockdown for longer than necessary.
The anger at the timetable from the CRG risks Mr Johnson facing a Conservative party rebellion when MPs vote on his roadmap.
The Prime Minister has a working majority of 80 and is likely to have the support of Labour MPs to get the plan through the Commons.
Professor Neil Ferguson, who helped the Government model the first lockdown, has also said he believes if accine effectiveness was “even greater than current estimates suggest”, the easing of Covid rules could be accelerated.
He told Times Radio: “The vaccines may have a bigger impact.
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“We also don’t know exactly how much transmission will increase with each step.
“Hopefully what we’ll see is a very limited resurgence of infections and hopefully a very limited resurgence of hospitalisations and deaths, in which there’s a faint chance we can accelerate the schedule.”
The Prime Minister defended his slow easing of rules on Monday, saying his roadmap was trying to strike “a very careful balance” to end lockdown restrictions without a new resurgence in the virus.
He said: “I know there are some who would like to accelerate this timetable and I know of course there are others who would like to be more cautious and stay in the slow lane.
“I understand and sympathise with both of those points of view because levels of infection are still high and we must strike a very careful balance and always accept we must be humble in the face of nature.
“But also, we must accept that we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that have separated families and loved ones for too long, and threatened the livelihoods of millions, and kept pupils out of school.”
Mr Johnson has set the target of all over-50s receiving a vaccine by April 15 and all UK adults having their first injection by the end of July.
So far nearly 18 million people have received their first dose of the coronavirus antidote.
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