As 16.4 million people wake up to the first day of Tier 4 restrictions, many are asking for how long the draconian measures will be in place. While the restrictions will be reviewed at the end of the month, the Health Secretary said they could be in place for much longer than a few weeks. Speaking on Sky News, Hancock suggested areas could have to remain under Tier 4 until the vaccine has been rolled out.
Asked whether people in Tier 4 should expect to remain in Tier 4 until a vaccine is rolled out, he told Sophy Ridge:
‘Well we’ve really got to get this under control. And the cases in the Tier 4 areas, as you’ve seen from the graphs that have been presented, have absolutely rocketed in the last few days, the last two weeks or so. And so we’ve got a long way to go to sort this. Essentially, we’ve got to get that vaccine rolled out to keep people safe… I think that given how much faster this new variant spreads, it is going to be very difficult to keep it under control until we have the vaccine rolled out.’
“The cases in the Tier 4 areas… have absolutely rocketed.”@MattHancock says it is “going to be very difficult” to keep the virus “under control” until the vaccine is rolled out.#Ridge: https://t.co/2MKcjT8pRx pic.twitter.com/ydQ0AVZvVF
— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) December 20, 2020
This raises the prospect of areas currently in Tier 4 – London and the south east – remaining under what is effectively a lockdown for months on end. Even if the Oxford vaccine is approved in the coming days, the earliest date by which government officials believe their vaccination goals will be reached is the spring. Hancock said 350,000 people have now been vaccinated and he hoped this would rise to 500,000 by the end of the day. The rollout of the Pfizer vaccine also rests on more deliveries of the UK’s ordered doses. There is also no official statement yet on how many people need to be vaccinated for the Prime Minister to either reduce or end restrictions.
There is, however, another factor to bear in mind on how long the new restrictions could last: Tory MPs. The decision to change the Christmas rules after MPs had been sent home for the holidays has gone down like a cup of cold sick with many of Hancock’s parliamentary colleagues. They will want to make their voices heard on the issue when parliament returns.
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