Five targets UK needs to hit before lockdown can ease – from the R rate to hospital admissions

THE UK needs to hit five targets before lockdown can be eased across the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to outline the roadmap on February 22, with kids being back in classrooms by early next month.

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Infection rates are falling across the UK but still remain at high levels.

Yesterday, 258 Covid deaths were recorded, compared to 621 on Saturday and 373 the previous Sunday.

Some 10,972 new infections were reported yesterday – down from 11,892 a week earlier.

It was reported today that the rule of six could return and shops could open in weeks if infection levels continue to fall.

Hopes are also growing that families could be reunited outside by Easter

Yesterday, an upbeat Mr Johnson said falling Covid rates are paving the way for the nation to get back to normal.


He told CBS News: “Thanks to the efforts of the British people, the lockdown, plus possibly the effect of the vaccine, we’re going to see the rates coming down more sharply.

“They’re falling at the moment. We want to be in a position where we can begin to open up.”

Today the Prime Minister's spokesperson said the government was looking at a range of options to lift lockdown.

They said: "We're looking at infection rates, and the transmission rates of the virus across the country, the number of people that are being hospitalised, the number of people who are currently in hospital and the number of people who are sadly going on to die from the virus.

They added that experts were also looking at the latest R rate, and the impact that the vaccination programme is having on transmission rates of the virus.

"So we're looking at a whole range of evidence and data and it will be that that informs the road map that we publish on Monday next week", they added.

But what does the UK need to achieve in order for lockdown to be lifted?

Progress with vaccines

So far in the UK over 15 million Brits have received a first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the Oxford/AstraZeneca offering with over half a million having received their second.

Mr Johnson is expected to address the nation tonight on the impressive vaccination programme and spell out plans to jab 32 million adults, including all over 50s, by the end of April.

Those who have been jabbed already include the most vulnerable in society as listed by the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation).

Residents in care homes and their carers were first in line to be jabbed as well as the over 80s.


Last week Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged people over 75 who had not yet received their jab to contact the NHS to organise inoculation.

Some areas of the country have already starting jabbing their over 65s and after they have received a jab, all adults who have underlying health conditions will be invited to be vaccinated.

Experts from Edinburgh University previously warned that relaxing all measures at the end of April – once all those in the first phase of the vaccination programme covering over-50s have been offered a jab – could still lead to a huge surge in cases.

The R rate

The R rate is a measure of the severity of the Covid outbreak.

The crucial value represents the number of people an infected person passes the virus onto.

But it can be suppressed if everyone reduces their contacts – and is one of the key reasons the country has been forced to shutdown.

Scientists say the R rate must be below 1 in order for the outbreak to shrink because this means every Covid patient infects fewer than one other person.

Data published by Sage on Friday revealed that the R rate across the UK is below one for the first time since July.

The figure is currently between 0.7 and 0.9 and while there are some slight regional differences, every region is below 1.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised the efforts of Brits in lowering the R rate.

He tweeted: "Thanks to the National effort, the R number has fallen below 1. We still have lots of work to do to defeat this virus, but we're making great progress.

"We will get through this, together."

Death rates

It's clear that before lockdown is lifted, death rates will need to fall.

So far in the UK over 100,000 people have died from the virus after daily deaths peaked in January at over 1,000 a day.

While vaccines are being rolled out across the UK, it is not yet clear how effective the jabs have been at reducing deaths and hospitalisations.

More data will be needed to evaluate this which should be available in the coming weeks.

Mr Johnson said the plan to exit lockdown will rely partly on “deaths falling at the pace we would expect as more people are inoculated”.

But he did not clarify how quickly officials expect to see numbers dwindle.

Yesterday, 258 Covid deaths were recorded, compared to 621 on Saturday and 373 the previous Sunday.


Hospital admissions

In order for restrictions to be relaxed, pressure needs to be lifted from the NHS.

Last month there were around 37,000 people in hospital with Covid in the UK with 4,032 on ventilators.

Data from the government's coronavirus dashboard shows that this has dropped off significantly.

At present there are 23,341 patients in hospital with Covid-19 and 2,943 requiring support from a ventilator.

Each patient admitted to hospital with Covid is treated for around three weeks.

Mr Johnson previously said that if the lockdown was lifted too soon, the NHS could come under more pressure.

Government experts have not given a figure as to how many hospital admissions would be acceptable for the government to lift restrictions.

Infection rates

Data from Public Health England (PHE) suggests that infection rate are falling across most of England with just a handful of areas witnessing a rise in infections.

Fewer cases of coronavirus mean fewer hospitalisations and fewer deaths.

NHS boss Sir Simon Stevens previously said that infection rates are "fundamentally the driver of deaths".

Over the weekend he warned that Brits needed to be alert when it comes to new mutations.

He said: "We must all remain vigilant and follow the lockdown rules restricting social contact. We must also be very careful about relaxing those rules prematurely.

"This will prevent unnecessary deaths, reduce patient harm, and help ensure the NHS can care for all patients, Covid and non-Covid alike."

Prof Tim Spector, behind the Zoe Covid symptom tracker app, told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday infection rates had fallen by 80 per cent since New Year.

He said the data continues to look “quite good” and that the PM could even partially lift lockdown in some regions before March 8.

Prof Spector hinted that lockdown could be lifted "sooner rather than later" if infections rates continued to tumble.

He said: "Based on the ZOE data and our predictions we are soon to be in the same place we were in early June, with the advantage of having a large proportion of the population vaccinated which could mean good news in terms of lifting some restrictions sooner rather than later.

"By March 8 we should have less than 1 in 740 people with symptoms allowing us to get kids back into the classrooms and starting to allow people to exercise and meet, at least outdoors, where the risk of transmission is much lower.

"Until then it’s important to keep following the guidelines, even if you have had a vaccine, and keep reporting symptoms and getting tested even if your symptoms are not typical."

The government have not stated how low infection rates would need to be for lockdown to be lowered.

However in July last year there were days where under 50 cases a day were being reported.

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