Boris Johnson warned not to lift lockdown prematurely - as the NHS is at full capacity

Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 11:39 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 1:57 pm
Boris Johnson warned not to lift lockdown prematurely - as the NHS is at full capacity (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Prime Minister has been urged by a leading UK health official not to ease lockdown for six more weeks, as the NHS remains at “full stretch”.

Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, has written to Boris Johnson days before the PM is set to lay out his roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions.

‘Much too early to start lifting restrictions’

In the letter, Mr Hopson called for a focus on “data not just dates”, as he told the PM that the case numbers are “still far too high”.

“The evidence on Covid-19 cases, NHS capacity, progress with vaccinations and readiness to combat Covid-19 variants all show that it is much too early to start lifting restrictions,” Mr Hopson wrote.

The top NHS boss said the number of cases, which is currently estimated by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to be 695,400, needs to drop to around 50,000 before any consideration of the lifting of lockdown measures.

Mr Hopson wrote that England was “still some way away” from being able to start relaxing the restrictions, indicating it would be another six weeks.

The Prime Minister is planning to give details on target dates out of restrictions in England on Monday (22 Feb). However, he has said that he “won’t hesitate” to delay plans if necessary.

Mr Johnson said the most up to date figures will be analysed this week to see what impact the vaccine rollout and lockdown rules are having on case numbers, hospital admissions and deaths.

When will lockdown lift?

Schools in England are intended to be the first to reopen on 8 March, before the easing of further measures in place.

Reports of a lockdown restrictions being eased at four week intervals appeared in the Daily Mail, allowing holiday lets and hotels to open in time for the Easter holidays.

Downing Street said no final decisions have been made yet on the easing of restrictions.

Reports in the Daily Telegraph said cases in the UK would need to drop to 1,000 per day before lockdown restrictions could be softened. On Tuesday (16 Feb) 10,625 positive cases were registered.