Tory MPs are demanding to know from the government when the current lockdown restrictions will be lifted.
Conservative former Minister Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), asked, “When is this policy going to end, if ever?
“Because if the virus continues to mutate, surely the risk is going to be there forever and so when can it be removed?”
If he does not then he will face a leadership challenge, and Steve Baker, the deputy chair of the Tory backbench Covid Recovery Group has written to MPs calling on them to express their views to the Chief Whip.
Baker said, “inevitably the Prime Minister’s leadership will be on the table” unless Johnson outlines how and when the lockdown will be lifted.”
Hancock said in response to Harper’s question, “The risk of mutations absolutely can and will be managed through the evolution of vaccines in the way that the annual flu jab changes each year and allows us to protect ourselves.
“Of course these measures, whilst necessary now, are not measures that can be in place permanently. We need to replace them over time with a system of safe and free international travel. That’s where we need to get to.
“The first task is to vaccinate the population. If we get good news on the vaccination impact on hospitalisations and deaths from people who have new mutations, then we will be in a better place.
“If we do not get such good news, then we will need to use the updated vaccines to protect against the variants of concerns.
“The scientists inform and advise me that there are repeatedly independently around the world mutations of the same type in the E484K area of the virus, as mentioned by Jonathan Ashworth. Now that gives the scientists a good start in where to target the new updated vaccine.”
Conservative MP William Wragg asked Hancock in the Commons, whether the conditions for ending lockdown have changed.
He said, “The original purpose of lockdown was to keep hospitals from falling over and to reduce hospitalisations.
“So if that is achieved through a vaccination programme, is it now the Government’s intention to use the level of the virus in circulation, the number of cases in the population as the determination as when to ease lockdown?”
Hancock replied, “No. The Prime Minister has set out the four conditions that need to be met and he’ll be saying more about this on February 22.”