FOREIGN Secretary Dominic Raab rebuked the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of rebel Tory MPs yesterday, insisting that the government won’t be held to an ‘arbitrary target’ of lifting lockdown by the end of April.
Raab rejected calls from the CRG, which comprises 63 mainly north of England Tory MPs, demanding that the government put a date on the end of lockdown.
The lockdown-sceptic CRG sent a letter to PM Johnson on Saturday demanding that all restrictions must be lifted by the end of April.
Raab said he was ‘confident’ in the vaccine rollout, but insisted: ‘You can’t get ahead of the evidence.’
Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘We share all of the ambition and the desire to get out of this lockdown,’ but developments need to be monitored ‘in real time’, making it difficult to give guarantees.
The CRG’s letter called for pubs and restaurants to open by Easter in a ‘commercially viable’ way, saying that two-thirds of the people in the top nine priority groups should have had a first vaccine dose by then.
Raab said the plan is to ‘ease the lockdown’ with the return of schools, which Johnson has previously said will happen on 8 March at the ‘earliest’.
‘The plan is to get the 99% of people at risk of dying dispensed their first dose by the end of April, or certainly offered their first dose.
‘By doing so, taking the fatality out of this virus, we’re in a much better position to proceed to start to ease the lockdown … starting with schools, non-essential retail.
‘I don’t think you can set an arbitrary target and not be evidence led, which is why the review on 22 February is so important.’
In their letter to Johnson, the CRG wrote: ‘Covid is a serious disease and we must control it. However, just like Covid, lockdowns and restrictions cause immense social and health damage, and have a huge impact on people’s livelihoods.
‘The vaccine gives us immunity from Covid, but it must also give us permanent immunity from Covid-related lockdowns and restrictions.’
Meanwhile, Dr Shondipon Laha, a member of the Intensive Care Society, dismissed the idea that Covid-19 could end up being seen on the same level as the flu – something that was suggested at the end of last week by both Health Secretary Hancock and PM Johnson.
‘It’s not just deadlier, it’s more debilitating. So we’re expecting to see significant numbers of patients who have had Covid who need intense rehabilitation.’
- PM Johnson has been forced to openly back Metropolitan Police boss Dame Cressida Dick after Home Secretary Priti Patel conspicuously failed to do so in a radio interview last Friday.
The Met is under renewed pressure over the way it investigated claims about a VIP paedophile ring.
Home Secretary Patel told LBC that the Met and its chief face ‘serious questions’ about the episode.
Asked whether she had faith in Dick, Patel said she had done a ‘lot of great work’ and the two are working together to ensure recommended changes to standards at the Met are fully implemented.
Downing Street later insisted that both Johnson and Patel had ‘complete confidence’ in Dick.