MATT Hancock says the fast-track approval of a coronavirus vaccine means restrictions could be loosened as soon as March.
The Health Secretary told the Telegraph he can’t wait to scrap the Tier system and allow a return to normal life by the Spring.
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Matt Hancock believes the fast-track approval of a vaccine could lead to the loosening of restrictions in MarchCredit: London News Pictures
Mr Hancock said that the swift approval of Pfizer and Biontech’s coronavirus vaccine earlier this week would bring about a quicker end to measures which have upended life for Brits since last March.
He told the Telegraph: “There’s no doubt that having the vaccine early… will bring forward the moment when we can get rid of these blasted restrictions, but until then we have got to follow them.
“Help is on its way.”
It marks a decisive shift in tone from the Health Secretary, who has previously been seen as one of the cabinet’s most vocal proponents of harsh coronavirus measures.
The first vaccinations are currently being shipped to 50 locations this weekend ahead of the first inoculation on Tuesday – which Mr Hancock has branded “V Day”.
The more lives you save and the fewer people who die, the sooner you can lift the restrictions
Under government plans, half of all vulnerable Brits could be vaccinated by the end of February.
This could allow MPs to sanction the relaxation of restrictions when they are renewed in the House of Commons before January 27.
The mass rollout of the vaccine will also be accompanied by a huge government advising campaign, set to be launched before Christmas.
It is expected to feature well-known celebrities, and Hancock stressed he was looking for “some absolutely wonderful nonagenarians… to come forward and be vaccinated.”
He did not specify whether this meant the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who are both in their 90s.
Despite his optimism regarding the lifting of restrictions, Mr Hancock stressed that scientists did not yet know whether the jab would prevent patients passing on the virus.
He said this meant “the elbow bump greeting might be here for a while.”
And the government’s ambitious plan to vaccinate the vulnerable also remains contingent on Pfizer scaling up manufacturing and the MHRA approving the eagerly awaited jab developed by Oxford University and Astrazeneca.
Mr Hancock added: “We’ll keep watching what happens to the epidemic.
“But the more people you vaccinate, the more lives you save and the fewer people who die, the sooner you can lift the restrictions – it’s as simple as that.”
Meanwhile, GPs have been told to be ready to start giving patients the Covid-19 vaccine in just nine days.
However, the NHS warned the “scale and complexity” of the immunisation programme would make it “one of the greatest challenges they have ever faced”.
“It is crucial we start to activate local vaccination services to allow priority patient cohorts to start accessing the vaccine,” it said in a letter.
The warning was signed by Dr Nikita Kanani, medical director for primary care at NHS England and NHS Improvement, and Ed Waller, director of primary care.
The vaccination sites must be ready to administer 975 doses of the vaccine to priority patients within three-and-a-half days of delivery on December 14.