But Government sources have “dismissed as speculation” reports that every adult in Britain could be vaccinated by the end of June. Other reports state the government is looking at relaxing lockdown restrictions in March.
Government ‘ looking at setting up quarantine hotesl’
Officials have been told to prepare for the creation of quarantine hotels for those arriving in Britain and to use GPS and facial-recognition technology to check that people are staying in isolation, according to the Sunday Times.
Downing Street believes the biggest threat to opening up is the growing number of mutant viruses around the world. It comes amid fears the strains could be immune to the three vaccines Britain has bought.
Last week officials were ordered to study New Zealand’s policy of “directed isolation”, where everyone arriving is charged for a stay at an airport hotel and forced to remain in isolation for two weeks.
In Australia it is between 14 and 24 days, with travellers charged between £1,500 and £2,500. The UK government is only considering a system where visitors pay the costs themselves, the Sunday Times reports.
Lockdown restrictions ‘ could begin to be lifted as early as March’
A cabinet deal has been done to approve a three-point plan to begin lifting lockdown restrictions as soon as early March, according to the Sunday Times.
Areas will be put into lower tiers once their death rate has fallen, the number of hospital admissions drops and some in the 50- to 70-year-old age range are vaccinated, as this age group spends the most time in hospital with the virus, the paper reports.
Cabinet ministers said privately that they were prepared to resist pressure from members of the Sage advisory committee to delay tier changes until most people are vaccinated, a process that would take until the summer at least, it says.
Instead, ministers will begin drawing up a timetable for the end of lockdown at the end of this week once they see the first evidence of the effect of the latest national lockdown.
A cabinet source told the newspaper: “For the first time there are no significant divisions between hawks and doves in the cabinet. Everyone accepted that we need to lock down hard and everyone accepts that we need to open up before everyone is vaccinated.”
Matt Hancock: ‘UK is nearly on the Home straight’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK is “nearly on the home straight” as 324,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered in the space of 24 hours.
More than 3.5 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a vaccine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, as he hailed those helping the “fantastic national effort”.
Two vaccines have been rolled out in the UK, with a third – developed by Moderna – also approved for use.
Mr Hancock, writing in the Sunday Express, said: “We can see the way out of this pandemic. We are nearly on the home straight.
“After months of detailed preparations, rigorous scientific scrutiny and an extraordinary amount of patience, we are rolling out two highly effective vaccines, with a third coming in spring and others progressing through clinical trials.
“We’re rolling it out to as many vulnerable people as possible and we expect tens of millions of people to be vaccinated by the spring.”
Hancock: ‘Everyone has part to play in national effort’
Ministers are urging the public to “play their part” in supporting the vaccination programme, such as by helping the elderly attend their appointments.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said people should also sign up to clinical trials for vaccines and treatments, and stay informed with accurate and trusted NHS advice.
He urged the public to commit to “three pledges” to support the rollout, saying: “Everyone has a part to play in this national effort – to protect our NHS, our loved ones and other people’s loved ones too.”