James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
Former health secretary Lord Lansley tells LBC he thinks lockdown will last until May
24 January 2021, 11:12
Former health secretary Andrew Lansley has told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday he believes the national lockdown will have to last until May, with indoor mixing a “long time” off.
Lord Lansley, who was health secretary from 2010-2012, told Tom Swarbrick: “The national lockdown is going to last until May. Why would it not?”
Schools will be the first to return, he predicted, but said he expects this not to be “until the end of March”, when all those over 50 have been vaccinated.
“The risk of course is that we get to Easter, we have done those vaccinations for the over 50s but the pressure on the NHS hasn’t abated because there is a time lag between the number of cases we are experiencing and the pressure on the NHS,” he continued.
“That is what makes me think we are looking at late April rather than Easter.”
His comments come as Health Secretary Matt Hancock said while he hoped schools in England could reopen by Easter, it would depend on the levels of infection in the community at that time.
Mr Hancock said that case numbers were still "incredibly high" and the NHS remained under intense pressure.
"There is early evidence that the lockdown is starting to bring cases down but we are a long, long, long way from being low enough because the case rate was incredibly high," he said.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to rule out the full reopening of schools after the February half-term break within days.
Lord Lansley is not the only one predicting a lockdown easing in May, with Kevin Courtney, co-general secretary of the National Education Union, also predicting a return to schools “could be as late as May”.
Yesterday it emerged a further 1,348 people died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, taking the total to 97,329.
A further 33,552 cases were confirmed, down by 7,794 compared to last Saturday - a drop of 18%.
Pressed by Tom Swarbrick as to when the country will become comfortable with the risk of Covid, Lord Lansley, one of Matt Hancock’s predecessors, said: “I suspect we don’t become comfortable with the risk until we have vaccinated, twice, the over 50s.”
He added: “The calculation will change but I think it can’t possibly change until we have achieved the vaccination of at least the over 50s.”
If the lockdown is rolled back slowly, to allow the government to see the impact of each change, Lord Lansley predicted it would before households can meet indoors.
“The trouble is all of this consumes an enormous amount of time and it is going to be quite a long time before the last thing that happens, which is household mixing indoors, is allowed,” the Conservative life peer explained.