Modelling carried out by the University of Warwick for the Sage group is based on 95 per cent of the population taking up the offer of a vaccine, with around 3 million jabs delivered every week from February.
It also assumes that the national lockdown will stay in place until 22 February before being gradually eased until all restrictions are removed in September.
“Even with the highest possible uptake and fastest vaccination program, full relaxation by the time schools return in September would still result in significant further disease,” the study warns.
However the researchers say that a relaxation of measures to the level seen in late summer 2020, when pubs and restaurants were open and gatherings of up to 30 people were allowed, would “result in only a very minimal further disease burden”.
Another study carried out by Imperial College last month found that removing restrictions between March and July could still lead to an extra 130,800 deaths by June 2022, even with a rapid vaccine rollout.
Under this scenario the reproduction number (R) indicating the spread of the virus would increase from 1.2 to 4.0 and the number of Covid patients would exceed hospital capacity of 25,000 beds.
“Our results highlight the importance of speeding up vaccine rollout and suggest that a more cautious approach to gradually lifting NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, household gathering bans and mask wearing) may need to be considered,” the paper says.
Boris Johnson has warned that it is “still early days” to discuss unwinding England’s national lockdown amid speculation about when coronavirus restrictions could be eased across the country.
In a video posted on social media, the prime minister appealed for caution as he reiterated his promise to announce a “steady programme for beginning to unlock” on 22 February.
Two newspapers reported that ministers were considering a limited reopening of pubs in April before a full reopening at the end of May.