A leading scientist who was a fierce advocate for the first national lockdown has said that coronavirus restrictions could be largely lifted by May.
Professor Neil Ferguson Imperial College London said this comes due to the rapid rollout of the vaccination programme.
“Hopefully, if everything plays out like our best estimates would suggest it might and there’s a lot of uncertainty around those estimates, then by May time frame I think it’s realistic to be in something akin to Tier Two.
“And maybe if there are areas with very low incidence by that time, we’d move to Tier One type measures,” which means people could meet with others in groups of six.
The hospitality sector which has been hit hard, could reopen with drinks being served without the need of a substantial meal.
Professor Ferguson who is advising the government as part of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) said he is “hopeful” the UK could be in its “final lockdown.”
He added that the nation is “in a better place than I might have anticipated a month ago,” as more than13.5m people out of 67m have now received their vaccination jab.
Over the last week there has been a 29% fall in positive cases and over 80% since the peak some four weeks ago.
He told Politico’s Westminster Insider Podcast, “The lockdown has really driven down cases quite fast.
“They’re basically halving about every 17 days at the moment or so, and that means in a month’s time, the Prime Minister’s talked about potentially reopening schools, we might have some bandwidth to do that, at least primary schools.
“And if we continue to see then a continued decline without large outbreaks, then perhaps starting to relax other aspects of society the following month.”
Professor Ferguson who is also a former Sage member said there will be a “bumby road” ahead, but he is “hopeful” this will be the last lockdown.
He said, “I’m hopeful it will be the final lockdown, so long as we are relatively cautious in coming out of this lockdown, I would say.
“If we relax too quickly without seeing the effect of each stage of relaxation, we may do what we’ve done before and relax too much, see a surge in case numbers, and still need to tighten up measures again.
“There’s also another issue here – the timing of relaxation is intricately tied up with the rollout of vaccine.
“The faster we can roll out vaccine, the higher the proportion of the population is immunised, the faster we can relax measures safely.”
A government source told The Times newspaper, “The more restrictions we have in place like social distancing rules the more we can do in terms of easing.”