How many people need to be vaccinated to get back to normal?

Herd immunity percentage is not a ‘magic threshold’

Margaret Keenan
Margaret Keenan was the first patient in the UK to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine
(Image credit: Jacob King/Pool/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has said he cannot see any reason “at the moment” to alter his roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions.

The prime minister was speaking in Downing Street today after shops, gyms and outdoor areas of pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen on Monday.

The national shutdown “has been overwhelmingly important” in reducing the number of Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths, he said, warning that this data is likely to be reversed to an extent as restrictions are lifted.

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Johnson urged the British public to “continue to exercise restraint” so that the country can stay on track with the easing of lockdown, but said: “At the moment I can’t see any reason for us to change the roadmap, to deviate from the targets that we’ve set ourselves.”

1. Key dates

12 April:

All retail was allowed to reopen. Gyms also allowed to reopen, though only for individuals working out alone. All children’s activities opened and outdoor hospitality resumed. Domestic overnight stays allowed but must be restricted to single households.

17 May:

Maximum of 30 people allowed to meet up outside. Indoors, “rule of six” applies or two households allowed to mix. Indoor hospitality also to reopen, along with indoor entertainment and attractions, and indoor sport permitted. International travel to be allowed (subject to review).

Events celebrating “significant life events” allowed with up to 30 guests, indoor events extend to 1,000 people or 50% capacity, outdoor seated events 10,000 or 25% capacity, and other outdoor events 4,000 or 50% capacity.

21 June:

Legal limits on social contact ends. All businesses (including nightclubs) may reopen, international travel permitted, and no caps on celebrations and large events.

2. The details

Before taking each step of the lockdown roadmap, the government will review infection data, as well as ensuring that:

  • the vaccine deployment is continuing successfully
  • evidence continues to indicate that vaccines are successfully lowering deaths and hospitalisations
  • infection rates do not threaten to overwhelm the NHS
  • new variants of the virus have not changed the risk to the public.

3. Reaction

Some critics believe the lockdown is being lifted too fast, while others say it is too slow.

Official data from Public Health England showing that Covid cases fell in every part of the country except Darlington in the week to 4 April renewed calls for the restrictions to be ended sooner than the government’s timeline.

Former Tory cabinet minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith is among the voices calling for normality to return more quickly. He told the Daily Mail last week that the PM’s current roadmap dates are “deeply pessimistic”.

Meanwhile, pictures of people celebrating in pub gardens and outdoor spaces last night have prompted concerns about coronavirus cases rising again.

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