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Hancock tells LBC that government will lift lockdown measures 'as soon as we safely can'

15 February 2021, 08:23 | Updated: 15 February 2021, 11:05

By Maddie Goodfellow

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told LBC lockdown measures will be lifted by government "as soon as we safely can" as the PM gets ready to unveil a 'roadmap out of lockdown' on February 22.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC, Matt Hancock was asked if the current restrictions in place will be "the last lockdown".

Mr Hancock replied: "Well let's hope so, that is the goal. The Prime Minister will set out on February 22, which is a week today, the road map out.

"We want to see a sustainable exit. And of course we want to lift lockdown measures as soon as we can, but as soon as we safely can.

"And that's the balance that has to be struck, and it's a challenging judgement.

"We will look at all of the data this week and the Prime Minister will set out details of that roadmap a week today."

The Health Secretary's comments come as Ministers are looking to begin reviewing coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England after more than 15 million people across the UK received their first dose of a vaccine.

The Prime Minister will this week begin considering how restrictions in England may be eased ahead of a statement on February 22 setting out his "road-map" out of lockdown.

Related article: When does lockdown 3 end in the UK?

Matt Hancock spoke with Nick Ferrari on LBC
Matt Hancock spoke with Nick Ferrari on LBC. Picture: LBC

Boris Johnson hailed the achievement - just over two months after the vaccination programme delivered its first jab - as a "significant milestone" in the fight against the disease.

There are reports today that as ministers are discussing plans to allow some shops to re-open, families to meet again and self-catering staycations to be allowed if Covid-19 infection rates continue to fall.

The passing of the 15 million vaccinations mark paves the way for the next phase of the the rollout - covering the next five priority groups, including the over 50s -to begin.

NHS England has already sent out 1.2 million invitations to the over 65s to book an appointment, with a similar number expected to go out this week.

The Government is aiming to get an offer of a vaccine to the estimated 17 million people in the next five groups by the end of April.

In a video message posted online on Sunday, Mr Johnson said there was still "a long way to go" and that there would "undoubtedly be bumps in the road".

It comes as lockdown-sceptic Tories started to pile pressure on Boris Johnson, calling on him to commit to a timetable for lifting coronavirus restrictions with a complete end to controls by the end of April.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the leaders of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) said the "tremendous pace" of the vaccination rollout meant restrictions should begin easing from early March.

They said ministers must produce a cost-benefit analysis to justify any controls that remain in place after that date, with a "road-map" stating when they would be removed.

The letter was organised by the CRG chair and deputy chair, Mark Harper and Steve Baker, and was said to have the backing of 63 Conservative MPs in all.

Mark Harper told LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday: "Remember, all these rules were put in place to save lives and protect the NHS and actually the life saving and the NHS protecting is going to be done by the vaccine, not by these restrictions.”

"The problem at the moment is you keep hearing people from SAGE, for example, coming out and suggesting we are still going to have restrictions all the way through the summer and perhaps have them again in the winter. And we are not hearing ministers counter that.”

However, Mr Harper added: “I would love to be able to stand up in the House of Commons and welcome the roadmap [the prime minister] sets out... and so would all the colleagues who have signed the letter. We are just setting out what we think the government should do.”