Covid: Minister predicts 'good summer' as expert sees life 'getting much more back to normal' by then

There are hopes the UK's vaccine rollout could allow lockdown restrictions to ease by summer. Credit: PA

Life in the UK will be "getting much more back to normal" by the end of spring, a government coronavirus adviser has told ITV News.

Andrew Hayward, who sits on the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), warned it is currently too soon to relax lockdown restrictions, with resurgence of Covid-19 "still a big possibility".

He said: "We really can't afford to be easing restrictions just yet, but that will start to come, and particularly as we move towards the tail end of spring and summer I see things getting much more back to normal."

Government adviser on chances of normality by summer:

He said the government should take a "cautious approach" to relaxing restrictions, with any easing posing a risk "of quite severe disease and quite severe long term consequences".

But once the top four priority groups have been vaccinated, which the government hopes to achieve by mid-February, then hospital figures and mortality may fall enough "to allow some easing of restrictions, depending on the epidemiological situation at the time".

Prof Hayward said it could take "some time" before all of the nine priority groups are vaccinated, but if restrictions bring levels down sufficiently then "easing in some sectors in a phased way is probably the way things will go".

Experts and ministers will be "keeping an eye on that because the last thing we want is a rebound just before we vaccinate everyone".

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told ITV News he is "confident that if we keep going as we're going, we'll have a good summer".

He said it depended on the success of the vaccine rollout, but with the UK on track to vaccinate the top four most vulnerable groups by mid-February then "we should see by the first week of March a real impact on hospitalisation numbers and of course on mortality".

Vaccines minister on hopes of a 'good summer':

He added: "On February 22 [Prime Minister Boris Johnson], when Parliament returns, will set out the road map to first of all open our schools on March 8 and from there onwards reopen the economy gradually."

At Wednesday's Downing Street press conference, England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said he and most of his medical colleagues "think we are past the peak" of the current wave of coronavirus, but added that doesn't mean there won't be another one.

His comments followed the news that the UK had vaccinated 10 million people.

Reaching the milestone means 15% of UK residents have now been given their first coronavirus jab.Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed it as a "hugely significant milestone".

Listen to the ITV News Politics Podcast: