Vaccines minister gives LBC details of four tests needed for lockdown easing

22 February 2021, 08:45 | Updated: 22 February 2021, 13:22

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has explained the details of the four tests that need to be met in order for restrictions to continue to be eased as England comes out of lockdown.

Mr Zahawi told LBC’s Nick Ferrari the continued success of the vaccine rollout, effectiveness of the vaccine, pressure on the NHS and prevalence of Covid-19 variants would determine whether the economy could continue to be unlocked over the coming months.

He said the four conditions were “clearly” being met at the moment, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson set to unveil his finalised roadmap to MPs this afternoon.

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He also confirmed England would not be returning to the tiered system used before the latest lockdown.

Mr Zahawi said: “The first test is that the vaccine deployment programme continues to run to plan. The plan has been made more ambitious because we now are looking to deliver the first dose of vaccine to the over-50s by mid-April instead of May and then of course all adults by the end of July."

He said the second part was "evidence of the vaccination actually having the impact on infections, serious infections, hospitalisations and death".

He continued: “The third is that infection rates as we gradually reopen the economy... do not begin to increase at a rate that would make it unsustainable for the NHS.

“And then the fourth element is around variants, that we continue to monitor variants, surge test, very quickly genome sequence and then isolate in the way we’re doing with the South African variant.”

He said the Government would “continue to monitor” the four conditions, adding: “Clearly at the moment they’re being met, hence why the Prime Minster’s coming to the Commons today to set out a plan for opening schools on the 8th March and then gradually reopening the economy.”

Asked by Nick whether Covid-19 cases would need to remain below a certain level as restrictions are eased, he said the Government would not be "setting an arbitrary number".

"It’s not only cases, it is whether the infections are then leading to serious infections, hospitalisations and death, so it is those four tests that I have just outlined to you", he said.

"It is making sure that one the vaccines continue to be deployed and work and then that we don’t see because of a particular reopening of part of the economy the infections rates really shooting up to a level where it’s really unsustainable for the NHS."

Mr Zahawi confirmed one person would be allowed to meet another outdoors to socialise from March 8, while from March 29 outdoor sports such as tennis, golf and grassroots football would return, while six people or two households would also be able to meet outdoors.

Pushed on when gyms and fitness centres could reopen, he added: "At the moment, it's outdoors versus indoors. Outdoors is the priority because it's where the transmission rates are much, much, much lower."