The debate around when Covid restrictions should be lifted is ongoing, with some government figures arguing that 8 March should become a so-called “lockdown freedom day”.
While some want a swift return to normal, others in government are concerned that lifting restrictions too quickly could have disastrous consequences, including the need for further lockdowns in future.
‘Lockdown freedom day’
Speaking to BBC newsnight, Conservative MP for Christchurch, Christopher Chope, said: “I think the presumption should be that we don’t restrain people from exercising their freedom unless there is a public health justification
“I hope that when the Prime Minister makes his announcement on 22nd February he will produce evidence if he wishes at that stage to extend lockdown beyond the end of March.
“I think there’s a strong case on what we’ve seen so far for saying that the 8th March should be lockdown freedom day.”
While many of the most vulnerable will have received a first dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of February, there are still concerns about the levels of infection, and the potential for new, more transmissible variants of the virus to emerge.
There is also uncertainty as to how much the first vaccine dose does to prevent transmission, meaning that, while those who are vaccinated have protection from the effects of the virus, they could still spread it.
‘We mustn’t make the mistake we made last year’
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that restrictions should remain in place until the daily number of cases drops below 1,000.
Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “I think we have to recognise that the game has changed massively over Christmas with these new variants, and that we mustn’t make the mistake that we made last year of thinking that we’re not going to have another resurgence of the virus.”
Figures for yesterday (4 Feb) show that there were 20,634 new cases of Covid-19 found in the UK. This is an increase on the previous day, although the weekly total showed a significant drop in cases from last week, down 51,364 to 148,725.