It is “too early to say” when the U.K. will be able to start easing its nationwide lockdown, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday as he warned the country to prepare for ”a tough few weeks ahead” in the wake of grim new coronavirus data.
Johnson was speaking as the latest Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT) study, conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, found prevalence of the virus remained “very high with no evidence of decline” despite a renewed set of nationwide curbs.
The study found 1.58 percent of those tested between January 6 to 15 had the coronavirus — amounting to one in every 63 people. That marks a 50 percent increase over early December.
Pressed by Sky News on whether the lockdown may not be eased until the summer, Johnson said: “I think it’s too early to say when we’ll be able to lift some the restrictions.”
Britain is aiming to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February, including the elderly and frontline health and social care workers. After that, Johnson said, the U.K. would “look then at how we’re how we’re doing.”
But he warned the REACT findings showed “the contagiousness of the new variant” identified in the U.K. before Christmas.
“It’s not more deadly, but it is much more contagious and the numbers are very great,” he added. “So, as we get the vaccination program out there …. we’ve got to observe the lockdown, the stay at home message, protect each other, protect the NHS. That’s absolutely crucial in what is unquestionably going to be a tough few weeks ahead.”