PM to receive new vaccine data this week as he considers easing lockdown

17 February 2021, 12:14 | Updated: 18 February 2021, 05:54

By Maddie Goodfellow

Boris Johnson is awaiting new data on the impact of vaccines on coronavirus after stressing he will take a "cautious and prudent approach" to easing England's third national lockdown.

The Prime Minister is understood to be expecting evidence on the impact of the UK's jabs programme on hospital admissions and deaths by the end of Friday, ahead of setting out his "road map" next week.

But it was unclear whether the early data would include the impact on transmission, with the results of two key Public Health England studies potentially not ready until next month.

Boris Johnson has said easing England's restrictions will be done in "stages", and warned hospitality could be one of the last things to return based on last year's lockdown.

Speaking on a trip to Wales, the Prime Minister told reporters: "I certainly think that we need to go in stages. We need to go cautiously.

"You have to remember from last year that we opened up hospitality fully as one of the last things that we did because there is obviously an extra risk of transmission from hospitality.

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"I know there's a lot of understandable speculation in the papers and people coming up with theories about what we're going to do, what we're going to say, and about the rates of infection, and so on.

"I would just advise everybody just wait, we'll try and say as much as we can on that."

Mr Johnson insisted easing the lockdown will be based on a "cautious and prudent approach".

Responding to whether he agreed with Professor Dame Angela McLean's comments to the Science and Technology Committee that any unlocking should be based on "data, not dates", he said: "I do think that's absolutely right.

"That's why we'll be setting out what we can on Monday about the way ahead and it'll be based firmly on a cautious and prudent approach to coming out of lockdown in such a way to be irreversible," he said.

"We want to be going one way from now on."

Mr Johnson said the UK Government would continue to have conversations with devolved administrations about how best to exit lockdown.

He said: "We have continuous conversations with (Welsh First Minister) Mark Drakeford, with other representatives of devolved administrations, about how to do it, just as we work on the vaccination programme together.

"We try and make sure we concert our approach and our general messages."

It comes Covid-19 case rates for three of the four UK nations have dropped to their lowest level since early autumn 2020, suggesting lockdown restrictions across the country have succeeded in helping to drive down the spread of the virus.

Both Wales and Northern Ireland are currently recording rates last seen at the end of September, while the overall rate for England has fallen to its lowest level since the start of October.

London and south-east England are also recording regional rates that are the lowest since October.

Case rates are one of the measures the Government has said it will use to inform its plans for a roadmap out of lockdown, along with the number of hospital admissions and patients, estimates of virus transmission rate, the latest data on deaths and the effect of vaccine rollout.

Wales recorded 89.6 cases per 100,000 people in the week to February 12, the lowest seven-day rate since 85.4 on September 29.

In Northern Ireland the rate currently stands at 120.5, the lowest since 104.1 on September 29.

For England as a whole, the seven-day rate as of February 12 was 142.2 - the lowest since 134.5 on October 5.

Scotland's rate did not rise as high as the other nations during the recent surge in cases, and currently stands at 104.1 - the lowest number since 102.3 on December 7.

In south-east England the rate currently stands at 102.1, the lowest since October 24, and in London the rate has dropped to 117.0 cases per 100,000, the lowest since October 18.

All other regions in England have seen their rates fall to levels last seen before Christmas.

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