UK ‘Precisely on Track’ of Johnson’s Roadmap to Reopen, Say Hancock
The UK should be able to reopen on dates set out in the government’s roadmap out of the lockdown, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
Speaking at a televised CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus briefing on Wednesday, the Health Secretary said: “The data show that we are essentially precisely on track for where we expected to be at this point and that is obviously good news.
“It means we can follow the roadmap—and we look at the data all the time,” he added.
“As far as the next step is concerned, which is in a few weeks’ time—and we’re going to keep monitoring the data—but as of today, we are on track for step three on May 17 and that is good news.”
According to the roadmap, stage three will begin no earlier than May 17, pubs and restaurants can open indoors, and cinemas and hotels will reopen.
If all goes well, all legal limits on social contact will possibly be removed from June 21 at the earliest.
When asked why England will not follow the United States, where health regulators have said the latest science means people given two doses of the vaccine can meet freely, Hanck said the government made the decision to move together.
“As you know, in the autumn we moved different parts of the country according to the rates that we saw in those areas. That had some advantages but it also had a disadvantage that we then saw in the areas where we had fewer restrictions we saw cases pop up,” Hancock said, referring to the tiered approach which had different regions under different levels of restrictions.
“So we took the decision when we wrote the road map that we all move as one, and I think that is very widely supported,” he said.
Speaking at the same briefing, England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said he believed it would be “incredibly safe” for fully vaccinated people to meet, but “not quite now.”
“If two people who both had two doses of vaccine and have both served at least 14 days after their second dose, then I would be highly confident scientifically that if they were reputable vaccines then indeed it would be incredibly safe for those two people to meet,” Van-Tam said.
On when that could happen in the UK, he said: “Soon, I really hope soon, but not quite now.”
He warned that nobody under 42, apart from the clinically extremely vulnerable “in whom the vaccine may be slightly less effective” and healthcare workers, has had the vaccine.
“I know this feels tantalisingly extremely close, and it is going to be frustrating at times for people, particularly those who’ve had their two doses,” he said.
“But we just need to make sure we don’t have to go backwards again on any of this and just hold the line a teeny bit longer.”
Hancock, 42, received his vaccine on Thursday morning from Van-Tam at the Science Museum in central London.
A recent study by Public Health England showed that one dose of either Pfizer/BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccines can reduce the risk of CCP virus transmission by up to a half,
Hancock said this is the “first concrete evidence” of how vaccines reduce transmission of COVID-19 within households.
“We’re looking at whether the second dose gives an even bigger effect,” Hancock said on Wednesday.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday that “about 70 [percent] of the adult population of England now have antibodies, almost two-thirds have had a single dose, a quarter have had two doses.”
“(There are) lots of really good things, but we have to remain cautious and we will continue to look at the data … But the good news is May 17 looks good, June 21 looks good too,” Zahawi said.