Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance speaking to Sky News (Image: Sky)
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The UK is "nowhere near" easing its various lockdown measures, the Chief Scientific Advisor warned today.
Sir Patrick Vallance sounded the grim alert after reports suggested England's restrictions will only start easing significantly in April.
Boris Johnson previously claimed he wanted to lift restrictions from February 22, once the most vulnerable have a first vaccine dose.
But the date appears to be slipping, with The Sun reporting he is now working on a plan to allow outdoor mingling at Easter.
Sir Patrick today warned vaccines are not doing enough "heavy lifting" at the moment and case rates need to drop further.
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"This is absolutely not the time to be talking about relaxing measures," he told Sky News.
The Chief Scientific Advisor also said the UK "may not get to actually perfect herd immunity with vaccines".
"The numbers are nowhere near where they need to be at the moment, they need to come down quite a lot further – we need to make sure we stick with it.
"You go for a walk in the park or something, life looks normal; you go for a walk in a hospital, if you work in a hospital, you will see life not looking normal at all.
"This is a really difficult, dangerous situation we're in, and we need to get the numbers down, so I don't see a release of these measures as being a sensible thing to do in the short term."
More than 4million people have received their first vaccine dose in the UK
(Image: Press Association Images)
On herd immunity, he added: "You are probably going need 70% plus of the population to be immune for that to occur, either through vaccination or natural immunity.
"But every degree of immunity in the population makes it more difficult for the virus to spread, makes it a bit easier for things to return to normal.
"So I don't think it's an absolute, but total herd immunity is going to require very high levels of vaccine cover."
Ministers are concerned about a drop in the supply of the Pfizer vaccine after the numbers getting jabs fell for a third day in a row. Boris Johnson has repeatedly described supply as the "limiting factor" in the Government's roll-out plan.
Government sources told the Times that supply was currently “very constrained” and warned “it’s going to be very, very tight” whether they hit their target of vaccinating the most vulnerable groups by mid-February.
The number of people receiving their first dose on Monday fell for the third day in a row to 204,076 from a high of 324,000 on Friday.
Sir Patrick said he had been "pushing continuously" for stricter earlier lockdowns, and if he could go back in time he would recommend harsher border measures in January 2020.
"I think there is a very simple series of recommendations which I've been pushing continuously and I'll continue to do so," he said.
"The lesson is: go earlier than you think you want to, go a bit harder than you think you want to, and go a bit broader than you think you want to, in terms of applying the restrictions.
"I'm afraid that's a grim message but that is what the evidence says – you've got to go hard, early and broader if you're going to get on top of this. Waiting and watching simply doesn't work."
He added: "If you go right back, and this is obviously much easier with the benefit of hindsight, if you go back to January, the things that might have been effective but I don’t think anyone at the time would have really thought of doing this or been able to apply this, we know we got importation of cases.
"So I think stricter measures in terms of making sure people come in quarantine and so on are important to stop importation of cases… I think those are measures that are quite important but they have to go very early.
"By the time you’re in March we had so many cases in the UK, I don’t think that would have made any difference at that time point."