UK plans to end COVID-19 lockdown in March: local media

The British government is planning to end the COVID-19 lockdown in March after cabinet members agreed that waiting until the summer when most people will have been vaccinated would lead to yet more economic misery, British media reported Sunday.

British ministers are drawing up a timetable to scale back restrictions despite a government advisory committee, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), calling for delays, the Evening Standard newspaper reported.

Previously, the British cabinet has been split between those who want to open up the economy as quickly as possible and those who are more cautious and want to follow the advisory committee’s advice.

Under the plans, areas will be put into lower tiers once their death rate has fallen and the number of 50-70 year olds being admitted to hospital has fallen, according to the Sunday Times newspaper.

That age group spends the most time in hospital battling the virus. A blueprint for the end of the lockdown is expected to be looked at later this week which will take into account the latest infection rates, deaths and hospitalizations, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, the British government believes that the biggest threat to the plan to end the lockdown as early as the beginning of March are mutant strains, which could be resistant to current vaccines, entering Britain.

Ministers have ordered plans to be drawn up for a fresh crackdown at Britain’s borders to stop new variants of the coronavirus undermining the vaccination effort, according to local media reports.

Britain’s coronavirus reproduction number, also known as the R number, is estimated at between 1.2 and 1.3, compared with last week’s one and 1.4, the SAGE said Friday.

If the R number is above one, it means the number of cases will increase exponentially.

Britain will close all travel corridors to the country from 0400 GMT on Monday in a bid to keep out new coronavirus variants.

The new restrictions will be imposed after Britain on Thursday banned arrivals from South America, Portugal and some other countries over fears about a strain of the virus detected in Brazil. The new rules will be in place until at least Feb. 15.

England is currently under the third national lockdown since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country. Similar restriction measures are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines.