Johnson 'optimistic' ahead of lockdown-easing plan announcement for England

# 13 February 2021 23:23 (UTC +04:00)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is "optimistic" ahead of announcing his lockdown-easing road map for England on 22 February, APA reports citing BBC.

It comes as scientists warn against lifting lockdown restrictions too quickly, even if the vaccination programme remains on target.

The government is hoping to have offered vaccinations to 15 million people by Monday.

So far, 14 million people in the UK have had at least one dose.

Mr Johnson said "we have to be cautious" and said his top priority was to be able to reopen schools in England on 8 March.

After schools, the government would look to open non-essential retail and then the hospitality sector, Mr Johnson added, during a visit to the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies plant in Billingham, Teesside.

"I will be trying to set out as much as I possibly can in as much detail as I can, always understanding that we have to be wary of the pattern of disease. We don't want to be forced into any kind of retreat or reverse ferret," he said.

The prime minister echoed comments made earlier by Health Secretary Matt Hancock that Covid-19 could become an illness that we live with - like the flu - by the end of the year.

"A nasty disease like this will roll through. A new disease like this will take time for humanity to adapt to, but we are," Mr Johnson said.

"I do think that in due time it will become something that we simply live with. Some people will be more vulnerable than others - that's inevitable."

Mr Hancock told the Daily Telegraph that he hoped new drugs by the end of 2021 could make Covid a "treatable disease", and one that we live with "like we do the flu".

This suggested that he was ruling out a "zero Covid" strategy, aimed at eliminating the virus entirely from the UK.

However, scientists said coronavirus mutations were getting "more dangerous" and "more infectious" and warned against treating it like the flu