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8 January 2021, 06:59
The Health Secretary has detailed the four things that will need to be met in order for the toughest restrictions to be lifted.
England is currently one week into a third lockdown as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
But with the vaccine roll out giving us hope this winter, now Matt Hancock has outlined the four criteria that must be met before the restrictions can be lifted.
Speaking to MPs, the Health Secretary said he thought this would be the ‘last of the lockdowns’, explaining: "We've set out the conditions that we'll look at for the relaxation of the restrictions.
"Those are, that there isn't another major, new variant that is causing difficulties.
"The vaccination program is working, and the number of hospitalisations and deaths is coming down."
This means the criteria is:
- There is no new variant
- The vaccination program is working
- The number of hospitalisations is falling
- The number of deaths is falling
He warned that there were no 'fixed thresholds' for any of the key criteria, and a new variant could push back the date England would be free of Covid social distancing measures.
While some ministers have said they plan to end the national lockdown in late February, others have said it could continue into March.
This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to vaccinate 13 million people before relaxing the restrictions.
He went on to say that the lockdown would end with a ‘slow unravelling’ as Covid hospitalisations fall in the coming weeks.
Mr Hancock added: "I am as confident as you can be, based on all the clinical advice that I have seen and all my own reading of the data, that the number of deaths in this country will fall - for any given number of cases - once the vaccine is rolled out to the vulnerable groups."
But he added that this could take longer than expected as "people that are slightly younger spend longer in hospital, often because they survive when somebody who is very old and frail might not survive for as long."
The Health Secretary also revealed that people may need to be revaccinated every six months in order to keep the virus at bay.
He said: “I anticipate we will probably need to revaccinate because we don’t know the longevity of the protection from these vaccines.
“We don’t know how frequently it will be, but it might need to be every six months, it might need to be every year.”