Thursday, 4 Mar 2021

Brits could be ‘back at the pub by March’, optimistic ministers hope

Brits could be "back at the pub by March" with much of the country in Tier 2 by then, some ministers hope.

The government is expected to ease lockdown restrictions gradually, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far refused to put any firm dates to the process.

Britain's biggest pub chain Wetherspoons expects its boozers to be shut until at least the end of March, and optimistic ministers are hopeful people will be able to meet up outside pubs by then.

But others are more cautious and think it will be at least April until that will be possible.

When restrictions are eased the country is likely to the tiered system in place following the latest coronavirus national lockdown.

Mr Johnson has warned it is still too early to say whether lockdown can be relaxed with the coronavirus infection rate and daily death toll still high.

He said: "I think it's too early to say when we'll be able to lift some of the restrictions.

"We'll look then (February 15) at how we're doing but I think what we're seeing in the ONS (Office for National Statistics) data, in the React survey, we're seeing the contagiousness of the new variant that we saw arrive just before Christmas – there's no doubt it does spread very fast indeed.

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"We've got that February 15 for all of the most vulnerable people to be offered a vaccination slot, we'll look then at how we're doing."

The government has set itself the target of vaccinating everyone in the first four priority groups by February 15, which equates to almost 14 million people.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed that more than 5million doses of the vaccine had been given to 4.6 million people, boosting hopes a release from lockdown is getting closer.

Mr Hancock claimed 200 jabs were being given to Brits every minute.

He told the House of Commons: "This virus is a lethal threat to us all and, as we respond through this huge endeavour (to vaccinate), let's all take comfort in the fact we're giving 200 vaccinations every minute."

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