Tory MPs have urged Boris Johnson to publish a ‘clear road map’ to start easing the national lockdown from March 8 as they warned the Prime Minister there ‘cannot be any more excuses’.
Mark Harper, the Tory chairman of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, said the Government needs to give people ‘hope’ while ‘businesses need a plan in order to survive’.
The Government is aiming to have vaccinated the 13.9million most vulnerable people in the UK by the middle of February.
Mr Harper, a former chief whip, argued that on the basis it will take those people time to build maximum immunity to coronavirus, ministers should target March 8 for the gradual loosening of restrictions.
His intervention came as Government sources were increasingly bullish about the vaccine roll-out, with ministers now hoping that every UK adult will have had the jab by the end of June.
Boris Johnson is under growing pressure from Tory MPs to publish a strategy for lifting the national coronavirus lockdown
Senior Tory MP Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said measures must start to be lifted from March 8
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Harper said that the PM must publish a draft plan this week setting out how curbs will be lifted.
The Government is due to conduct its first formal review of lockdown on February 15 and Mr Harper said ministers could at that point firm up the proposals ahead of an easing of rules in March.
He said: ‘The top four at-risk groups, which the Government aims to have given a first dose by Feb 15, will have got the maximum immunity from that within three weeks – by March 8.
‘That has got to be the point at which we start to lift restrictions in a way proportionate to the reduction of risk.’
Mr Harper said that ‘nobody is expecting nightclub doors to be flung open on March 8’ because it is ‘obvious that not every restriction can be lifted straight away’.
He pointed to Mr Johnson’s previous suggestion that there will be a ‘gradual unwrapping’ of lockdown and said he agreed that will be the best approach to take.
‘People need hope and businesses need a plan in order to survive, especially those in the hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors,’ he said.
‘That’s why this week, we need a draft plan for the progressive lifting of restrictions from March 8 so that the public, businesses and scientists can use it as the basis for a sensible debate, as the Prime Minister suggested on Friday.
‘That will allow a definitive plan to be published ahead of Feb 15.’
He added: ‘There cannot be any more excuses and there’s no need to wait until Easter.
‘We need a clear road map to all our freedoms, economy and health prospects being fully restored.’
Mr Harper’s intervention came as it emerged that the Government is increasingly optimistic about the speed of the UK’s vaccination drive.
Ministers are said to have privately set an ambitious target of giving every adult the jab by the end of June.
Whitehall sources are confident of accelerating the pace of the rollout to a point where four to five million people are receiving their shots each week.
The UK’s virus-fighting power was dealt another boost yesterday after the boss of a new state-of-the-art vaccine production factory said it was on standby to tackle any future variants and produce jabs at breakneck speed.
And in a triple lift for vaccination efforts, the Mail on Sunday revealed French drugs firm Valneva is just ‘days away’ from kick-starting manufacture of its jab on British soil – with the UK set to receive 60million doses.
The Government is increasingly bullish about the speed of Britain’s vaccination drive and has privately set an ambitious target of giving every adult the jab by the end of June, it was claimed last night (vaccines in Salisbury Cathedral)
The country is currently pressing ahead with the biggest vaccine rollout in its history and by Saturday over 3.5million people had received their first doses.
Care home residents, the over-80s, extremely vulnerable people and frontline health staff are the first in line and have been receiving shots of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.
Mr Johnson is aiming to have vaccinated the nation’s most at-risk people by mid-February, with the hope of having injected ‘tens of millions’ by April, but no longer term targets.
But in a confident forecast that will bring hope to millions, a senior Government source told the Telegraph: ‘All over-18s by June – yes. It is delivery, delivery, delivery.’