Pubs and bars in England could be closed until the start of May under draconian plans being examined by officials.
No10 is said to be privately gloomy about the prospects of an end to the third lockdown next month. March 23 – the year anniversary of the start of the first lockdown – is being touted as a more realistic end date.
Boris Johnson has already warned that lockdown measures are unlikely to all be lifted at once, in favour of a gradual lifting of restrictions as rising numbers of vaccinations take place.
But today it was suggested that the bank holiday on May 3, is a more likely date for boozers to re-open their doors to a thirsty public.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock today said that the plans were to lift restrictions in the ‘spring’, but appearing on Sky’s Ridge on Sunday he refused to give a firmer date
‘The May Day bank holiday is more likely the moment you see pubs reopening,’ a source told the Sunday Times.
It came as Home Secretary Priti Patel defended police as officers began clamping down on Covid rule-breaking, including £200 fines for people who ignore just one verbal warning to go home.
The Home Secretary said the increasing number of new Covid-19 cases proved there was a need for ‘strong enforcement’ in cases where people were clearly breaking the rules.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock today said that the plans were to lift restrictions in the ‘spring’, but appearing on Sky’s Ridge on Sunday he refused to give a firmer date.
‘Well, we’ve always said in the spring and we’ll hold to that and the reason is we’ll have vaccinated the most vulnerable groups, the over-70s, the extremely vulnerable, by the middle of February,’ he said.
Today it was suggested that the bank holiday on May 3, is a more likely date for boozers to re-open their doors to a thirsty public.
‘It then takes two to three weeks for their immunity to come through from the first dose and we’ll watch the data, we’ll watch the data. The reason we don’t put a specific date on it is because we don’t yet know, we still don’t know, the effect of the vaccine on transmission.’
It came as one of the Government’s top science advisers said that ‘even stricter’ lockdown rules would be needed if the current ones do no halt the rise in cases.
Professor Peter Horby, the chairman of Nervtag, told the BBC’s Marr show it ‘remains to be seen’ if current restrictions will be enough.
As the country awaits the ramping up of coronavirus testing and vaccinations this week, Professor Chris Whitty has said the only way to prevent avoidable deaths is for the public to stay home wherever possible
The UK’s Covid death toll passed 80,000, after a further 1,035 deaths were recorded yesterday, increasing fears that the total will surpass 100,000 by the end of the month.
England’s chief medical officer has warned the NHS faces the ‘most dangerous situation’ in living memory as the pandemic causes record deaths and hospital admissions.
As the country awaits the ramping up of coronavirus testing and vaccinations this week, Professor Chris Whitty has said the only way to prevent avoidable deaths is for the public to stay home wherever possible.
‘Hospitals are always busy in winter, but the NHS in some parts of the country is currently facing the most dangerous situation anyone can remember,’ Prof Whitty wrote in the Sunday Times.
‘If the virus continues on this trajectory, hospitals will be in real difficulties, and soon.
‘Staff-to-patient ratios – already stretched – will become unacceptable even in intensive care.’
The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital is at a record high in England, while the official coronavirus death toll for the UK passed 80,000 on Saturday and lab-confirmed cases hit more than three million.
Prof Whitty commended the public for their efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19 and noted the hope offered by various vaccines, but he echoed other experts in saying it would be some weeks before the jabs start to reduce the number of people taken to hospital.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said that expanding the Community Testing Programme to more people without symptoms is ‘crucial given that around one in three people’ who contract Covid-19 are asymptomatic.
DHSC said councils will be encouraged to test those unable to work from home during lockdown – a move likely to include police officers, supermarket workers and taxi drivers.
Lateral flow tests, which can return results in as little as 30 minutes, are at the heart of the programme, the eligibility of which has now been ‘expanded to cover all 317 local authorities’, DHSC said.