UK’s Johnson to judge COVID-19 lockdown exit this week, health minister says

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will this week judge how fast England can exit COVID-19 lockdown but the death toll and hospital admission numbers are still too high, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday.

Johnson hailed a “significant milestone” on Sunday as data showed 15 million first doses of COVID-19 vaccinations had been delivered, fuelling calls for the government to start relaxing stringent lockdown measures.

“We’ve got to watch the data,” Hancock told Sky News, “Everybody wants to get out of this as quickly as we safely can, and both as quickly, but also as safely, are important.

“The question is a judgement of how quickly and safely, how quickly we can do that safely. That’s the judgment that we’re making this week, looking at the data, ahead of the prime minister setting out the roadmap, on the 22nd,” he said.

“So these are the judgments that will be made this week.”

The world’s biggest and swiftest vaccine program in history is seen as the best chance of exiting the COVID-19 pandemic which has killed 2.4 million people, tipped the global economy into its worst peacetime slump since the Great Depression and upended normal life for billions.

Israel is the best performer so far on vaccine rollout per head of population, followed by the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States and Bahrain.

Hancock said the British government was speaking to other countries across the world about giving British people certificates showing they had been vaccinated so that they could travel abroad to countries that require them.

“There is this international work going on because if other countries require (proof of vaccination) we want to allow Brits to be able to travel to those countries,” Hancock said.

“We’d want to be able to facilitate that sort of vaccine certification, but it isn’t anything we’re planning to introduce here,” he said, adding that a so-called vaccine passport was not something that would be required to access services in the UK.

The United Kingdom has the world’s fifth-worst official death toll – currently 117,166 – after the United States, Brazil, Mexico and India.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton; editing by James Davey

Image: FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), visits a PPE manufacturing facility, in Seaton Delaval, Britain, February 13, 2021. Scott Heppell/Pool via REUTERS

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