‘Normal’ life could resume by Easter, says Matt Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has welcomed the news of the Oxford vaccine. Picture: PA IMAGES

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has welcomed the news of the Oxford vaccine. Picture: PA IMAGES - Credit: PA

A rollout of coronavirus vaccines in the new year could see life “start to get back to normal” after Easter, according to the health secretary.

Mr Hancock said the success of the lockdown in reducing case numbers in England means the country will be able to return to a tiered system of local restrictions from Wednesday, December 2 as planned.

Speaking upon hearing the Oxford vaccine candidate has been demonstrated to be up to 90% effective, the health secretary stressed the “bulk” of the population will need to be immunised before Covid rules can be eased significantly and before like can return to “normal”.

MORE: Google data shows how well people in Suffolk are sticking to lockdown rulesMr Hancock told BBC Breakfast that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) would now assess if the 90% effectiveness dosing regime could be used.

He said: “I’m really very pleased, I really welcome these figures - this data that shows that the vaccine in the right dosage can be up to 90% effective.”

He added: “If this all goes well in the next couple of weeks, then we are looking at the potential of starting the vaccination programme next month for this Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as well as the Pfizer vaccine.

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“But in all cases the bulk of the rollout will be in the new year.

“We are looking with high confidence now that after Easter things can really start to get back to normal.”

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The government said that the results from the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca are “very encouraging”, but we must continue to take the necessary actions to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

A spokesman said: “We have already secured early access to 100 million doses of their vaccine for use across the UK if approved – on top of 255 million doses from other vaccine developers.

“The independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will carry out their crucial work to assess whether the vaccine meets robust standards of safety, effectiveness and quality once it receives the full data from Oxford/AstraZeneca. If authorised, the NHS will begin to roll out more widely, starting with those most at risk, in line with Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advice, and taking into account logistics and practicality.

“Advances including rapid testing, new treatments and vaccines will help us get back to normal but, until then, we must all continue to take the necessary actions to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, including following the Hands, Face, Space guidance.”

Later today the prime minister will announce a revised three-tier system, which will allow non-essential retail to remain open in all three tiers.

Boris Johnson is also expected to reveal that gyms can welcome back customers, while grass roots sports will also be able to resume.

Cinemas will be allowed to reopen in areas under Tier 1 and 2, and midnight mass and Christingle services will be permitted in all three tiers.

There will also be an easing of the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants with an extra hour’s drinking up time.

However, controls will remain, with those under the toughest Tier 3 measures expected only to be allowed to offer takeaways, while those in Tier 2 will only be able to serve alcohol with food.

Mr Hancock acknowledged the measures were tougher than those that were in place under the previous three-tier system.

But with the roll-out of a mass vaccination programme not expected until next year, he said it was essential that the disease was kept under control over the winter.

MORE: Covid winter plan set to be revealed - including relaxing rules for Christmas

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