Europe

Covid breakthrough: Top scientist predicts UK ‘back to normal by summer’ with vaccine

UK ‘not wise to play solo on coronavirus vaccine’ says Bonell

Government scientific adviser Professor Andrew Hayward said the UK “will be more or less back to normal for the summer” with the current inoculation rates. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme the professor said the immunisation drive will make a “big difference”.

The expert suggested there will be a “significant” easing of lockdown restrictions once those most at risk take the jab.

He said: “Once the most ­vulnerable people, particularly those over-50 and those with chronic illnesses, are ­vaccinated then yes, I think we can see a significant return to normality.

“I think what we’ll see is a phased opening up as vaccination levels increase.

“Then we’ll be more or less back to normal for the summer, I would imagine.”

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The remarks come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted on delivering his promise to reopen schools on March 8 at the earliest despite pressure to do so sooner.

Tory backbenchers have been pushing for an earlier return to the classrooms now new figures show the AstraZeneca jab stops transmission.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart, Mark Drakeford, announced yesterday schools in Scotland and Wales would begin to return from February 22.

However, Mr Johnson has doubled down his date, labelling it the “cautious approach”.

He said: ”What we don’t want to do now that we are making progress with the vaccine rollout and we have got a timetable for the way ahead, we don’t want to be forced into reverse.

“We think this is the prudent and cautious approach. I think it is much better to stick to that.”

Mark Harper, the former Conservative chief whip who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, is spearheading calls for the Prime Minister to reconsider his decision and allow students in England return to schools after the February half term.

He said: “The harm being done to children’s mental health, their education and their future prospects from being out of school is increasingly clear.

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“I was pleased the Prime Minister confirmed that schools will be the first thing to reopen from March 8 but disappointed it wasn’t earlier.

“Now we see that Scotland is going to start bringing back pupils from February 22, straight after half-term, many colleagues will hope that Ministers will look urgently to see if that could happen in England as well.”

Former children’s minister Tim Loughton said: “If Scotland now thinks it’s safe to re-open schools by February 22, many people will ask why we have to wait another fortnight in England.

“I hope this will encourage the Government to rethink its timing so we can get our kids back into school as soon as possible.”

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