How Boris Johnson plans to end the UK coronavirus lockdown

PM reportedly preparing ‘unlocking framework’ - but new vaccine study casts doubt on proposed timeline

Boris Johnson speaks during a virtual press conference at No.10
(Image credit: Tolga Akmen/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson is privately planning to start easing lockdown measures at Easter after being threatened with a leadership challenge unless he sets an end date, according to a Downing Street insider.

The Sun reports that the prime minister has tasked Cabinet Office civil servants with creating a detailed “unlocking framework” to gradually ease Covid-19 restrictions area by area.

And although ministers are publicly insisting that nothing can be decided while infection levels remain so high, the PM is said to have “his eye on early April - even if for many it’s only mingling outside”.

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A senior government source told the paper that “it’s way too soon to start talking about when, but the work is being done quietly on the how”.

However, the timing of any relaxation of the lockdown will depend on the success of the Covid vaccine rollout.

Concerns have been raised about the UK’s immunisation strategy as a result of research into Israel’s rapid rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The study findings suggest that “the UK’s decision to delay the second dose exposes the elderly and vulnerable to a significantly higher risk of infection than we were told by the government’s vaccines advisers”, writes Sky News science correspondent Thomas Moore.

The newly released data indicate that the efficacy of one dose is just 33% - far lower than the “around 90%” figure touted by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation at the end of December.

Meanwhile, “chaos” surrounding vaccine blackspots across the UK has “fuelled fears” that the earliest viable date for a significant easing of restrictions has “slipped beyond Easter”, the Daily Mail says.

Government figures show that the daily Covid death toll reached a record 1,610 yesterday, with the weekly average up by 20%.

But in a glimmer of hope, the number of new cases dropped by 4,180 to 33,355, with the seven-day average down by 22%.

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Chas Newkey-Burden has been part of The Week Digital team for more than a decade and a journalist for 25 years, starting out on the irreverent football weekly 90 Minutes, before moving to lifestyle magazines Loaded and Attitude. He was a columnist for The Big Issue and landed a world exclusive with David Beckham that became the weekly magazine’s bestselling issue. He now writes regularly for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, Metro, FourFourTwo and the i new site. He is also the author of a number of non-fiction books.