The government “should be able” to begin easing England’s coronavirus lockdown in March, a senior minister has told Sky News.
Michael Gove said the public should not expect a sudden relaxation of the COVID-19 rules, with restrictions “progressively” relaxed instead.
“The government is doing everything it can in order to ensure that we can roll out the vaccine more rapidly, help the vulnerable by getting the inoculations they need, and make sure that at the end of what will inevitably be very, very difficult weeks, that life can eventually return to normal,” he said.
As coronavirus vaccines continue to be rolled out, the country is in a “race against time” against a new, more transmissible variant of the disease, Mr Gove added.
Asked how long the lockdown could last, the Cabinet Office minister said ministers would “review the progress that we’ve made” on 15 February.
He added: “We hope that we will be able to progressively lift restrictions after that but what I can’t do is predict – nobody can predict – with accuracy exactly what we will be able to relax and when.
“What we do know is that the more effective our vaccination programme, the more people who are protected in that way, the easier it will be to lift these restrictions.”
Pressed again on a timeframe for easing restrictions, Mr Gove said: “I think it’s right to say that as we enter March we should be able to lift some of these restrictions, but not necessarily all.”
He was speaking after Boris Johnson introduced a third national lockdown in England, with people told to “stay at home” as they did during last March’s first shutdown.