Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that England will remain in lockdown until at least March.
The PM said today (January 27) that schools will stay closed until March 8 at the earliest as the UK faces a “perilous situation, with more than 37,000 patients now in hospital with Covid – almost double the peak of the first wave”.
Non-essential businesses – including retail shops, pubs and restaurants – will not be permitted to reopen, though a “gradual and phased” lifting of the lockdown rules is set to begin in early March.
Johnson said that students returning to school would be the “first sign of normality”, with “other economic and social restrictions being removed thereafter as the data permits”.
He explained that “the overall picture should be clearer by mid-February”, which is the government’s target date for fully vaccinating the top four priority groups.
“By then, we will know much more about the effect of vaccines in preventing hospitalisations and deaths using data from the UK but also other nations like Israel,” the prime minister added.
“We will know how successful the current restrictions have been in driving down infections. We will also know how many people are still in hospital with Covid which we simply can’t predict with certainty today.”
England’s current lockdown was announced on January 4. Earlier this week, the PM suggested that the government were “looking at the potential of relaxing some” COVID-19 restrictions before the middle of February.