England could be out of restrictions ‘by spring’ if vaccine rollout successful, Raab says

29 November 2020, 11:40

By Joe Cook

The foreign secretary has told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday that England will be in a "much better place" by the spring, if the coronavirus vaccine rollout is successful.

Dominic Rabb told Tom the country could be out of “all of the particularly intrusive levels of restrictions that we have got, whether it is under a national lockdown or a tiered approach by the spring”.

This would rely on the vaccine being “disseminated across the most at risk levels of our society and community, but also key workers”.

Mr Rabb continued: “We think by the spring - subject to the regulatory approvals around the vaccine - we think we will be in a much better place.”

The medicines regulator has been formally asked by the government to assess the Oxford University/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.

If approved, a vaccine could be rolled out from December, with Nadhim Zahawi appointed on Saturday to oversee the vaccine rollout.

The UK government has secured access to 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab and 40 million of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Read more: Government asks regulator to assess Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

Read more: Boris Johnson appoints Nadhim Zahawi as minster for Covid vaccine deployment

The foreign secretary also told LBC the relaxation of the rules over Christmas is a recognition of “the emotional, spiritual, the moral sense that families do need to come together and be able to do so”.

He added: “People do feel that they want to get together with their loved ones. I think you do have to take into account that human element and that is what the government is doing.”

Read more: Covid-19 crisis in numbers: LBC brings you the stats you need to know

The glimmer of hope for an end to coronavirus restrictions in spring comes as the government faces a rebellion on its backbenches over the new tiering system, which will come into force at the end of the national lockdown.

The prime minister has been facing growing dissent after it was announced that 99 percent of the country would be placed into Tiers 2 and 3 when the second nationwide lockdown ends on Wednesday.

Conservative MP Greg Clark, chair of the science committee, told Swarbrick on Sunday: “I can’t support a proposal that very unfairly takes an area with such a very low comparative level of infection and puts it in a category that is the very highest in the country.”

The MP for Tunbridge Wells in Kent, which will be moving from Tier 1 into Tier 3, added he hoped the government would “allow places that really have no reason to be under this level of restrictions to be at a more appropriate level”.

Read more: PM offers Tory rebels February 3 'sunset' for Covid tier system

Boris Johnson extended an olive branch to potential rebels on Saturday, saying the coronavirus regulations would include a sunset clause - or expiry date - of 3 February, which would give MPs the chance to vote on any future extension.

But Mr Clark told Swarbrick on Sunday “February is a long time away” and a “sunset clause” would not persuade his constituents.

They feel the system is “an injustice hitting the livelihoods of people, pubs, restaurant owners who could perfectly and reasonably be making their living,” he explained.

“To say February is when it is going to change, I don’t think it is going to persuade them.”