UK minister says no way to give ‘100% certainty’ that lockdowns won’t return as govt mulls roadmap for lifting restrictions
The UK may see more lockdowns, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly has warned, arguing there was no way to ensure the restrictive Covid-19 measures won’t be needed in the future.
Cleverly told Sky News that it was impossible to say with “100 percent certainty” that stay-at-home orders and other restrictions won’t be necessary in the coming months because “viruses don’t work like that.”
He said the government was working towards making the country’s third nationwide lockdown its last, but there were no guarantees.
The minister expressed similar caution about making holiday travel plans, noting that it’s still unclear what the situation will be in the summer.
The country entered lockdown for the third time in early January, shutting schools, non-essential businesses and limiting movement and travel. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected next week to reveal his roadmap for easing out of the restrictions.
Downing Street has so far refused to commit to a set timeframe for lifting the rules, stressing that it is impossible to predict how the health crisis will evolve. The government recently dismissed a letter from a group of Tory MPs calling for most restrictions to be completely lifted by the end of April. The lawmakers argued that the country’s vaccination drive would soon protect the most vulnerable groups from the virus, making lockdown measures unnecessary. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government was unwilling to make a “slightly arbitrary commitment” without first reviewing how the vaccine had impacted transmission and hospital admissions.
On Thursday, Care Minister Helen Whately said the government could not rule out a return to the strategy in place before the latest national lockdown, which was centered around regionally-imposed restrictions. However, she expressed hope that this would be the “last ever” national lockdown, a view that has been echoed by Johnson.
Others have been even more conservative with predictions on when lockdowns could disappear. Dr Susan Hopkins, Public Health England’s Covid-19 strategic response director, said last week that restrictions could remain in place until the entire adult population is vaccinated.
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