The PM is set to reveal his ‚roadmap‘ in a statement to the Commons this afternoon once it is rubber-stamped by Cabinet, after scientists seemingly won the battle for a slow approach regardless of the surging vaccination drive.
The level of coronavirus infections is still high and the number of hospitalisations higher than they were during the first peak, Chris Whitty said.
However, the PM cannot ignore 63 of his own MPs. He knows how strongly they feel about lockdown easing. Some 53 Tories voted against his tiered system in December. He will probably want to renew some of the current restrictions when they expire on 31 March.
It comes as a group of Tory MPs call for a commitment to a „free life“ and ending of lockdown measures before May.
Senior backbencher Steve Baker said he wants the prime minister to „let us reclaim our lives, once and for all“.
The Prime Minister is expected to hold a televised Downing Street coronavirus briefing at 5pm.
Rob Halfon, the Tory chairman of the Education Select Committee, told The Telegraph: „We just need to make sure March 8 is signed in blood, not just a line in the sand.“ Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said: „It’s crucial we don’t backslide on this.“
The Prime Minister has promised to get children back in classrooms by March 8 as part of his ‚route map‘ out of lockdown, which he plans to reveal on Monday, February 22.
But hopes the world-beating vaccine roll-out will mean lockdown curbs can be significantly eased any time soon were shot down today by Mr Hancock, who unveiled the latest suite of border curbs and warned they could last until the Autumn when booster vaccines will be available.
Mark Harper — chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown sceptics, with 70 Tory MPs — said: “Back-of-the-envelope calculations I did based on two million doses a week mean you could get the top nine priority groups, first doses, and the top four groups, second doses, all done by the end of May.
“So it seems to me by the time you get to the end of May, no later than that, you should be in a position to get rid of restrictions completely.
The NRG was launched by Tory MPs representing constituencies in Wales, northern regions and the Scottish borders – largely the parts of the country the current Government had promised to support when it was elected.
It has been calling for the Government to set out a specific northern economic recovery plan to help these regions in the wake of economically-damaging lockdowns.
„We locked down the country and shut down our schools on the basis of a forecast, so why can’t we open it up on the basis of one too? It is not sustainable to leave the public and British businesses languishing any longer,“ Mr Baker told The Telegraph.
Last week Steve Baker, the deputy chair of the Tory backbench Covid Recovery Group (CRG), wrote to MPs calling on them to write to the Government chief whip and make clear an exit strategy was needed.
He told them „inevitably the Prime Minister’s leadership will be on the table“ unless Mr Johnson outlined the return to freedom.
– Tory MPs have urged Boris Johnson to publish draft lockdown exit plan this week
– They said that the gradual easing of draconian curbs must start from March 8
– The Covid Recovery Group warned the PM ‚there cannot be any more excuses‘