Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set Monday to start unwinding England's third and -- he hopes -- final coronavirus lockdown, as a quickening UK-wide inoculation drive relieves pressure on hard-hit hospitals.

UK’s PM eyes end to lockdown as vaccines reach one-third of adults

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set Monday to start unwinding England’s third and — he hopes — final coronavirus lockdown, as a quickening UK-wide inoculation drive relieves pressure on hard-hit hospitals.

In a statement to parliament, Johnson is expected to confirm the reopening of all English schools on March 8 in the first big step towards restoring normal life, nearly a year after he imposed the first stay-at-home order.

The Conservative prime minister, who was accused of acting too late and relaxing curbs too early last year, says he will lay out a “cautious but irreversible” plan to ensure no more lockdowns.

“Today I’ll be setting out a roadmap to bring us out of lockdown cautiously,” he said in a Downing Street release, ahead of his House of Commons appearance and a televised news conference later Monday.

“Our priority has always been getting children back into school which we know is crucial for their education as well as their mental and physical well-being, and we will also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely.”

Britain is one of the countries hardest-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 120,000 deaths.

It was the first nation to begin a mass vaccination campaign, in December, but surging case numbers forced a return to lockdown in early January after an easing of curbs over Christmas.

More than 17 million people have now received at least a first vaccine dose — one-third of the adult UK population.

– Case numbers falling –
Over the weekend, the government said it would seek to offer a dose to everyone aged over 50 by mid-April, and to every other adult by the end of July, accelerating the latter timetable from September previously.

Case numbers are falling again and early evidence suggests the vaccinations are reducing serious illness, after some intensive-care units were overrun last month and queues of ambulances formed outside hospitals, unable to transfer their patients.

Johnson said the planned relaxations would be uniform across England, after regionalised tiers were put in place last year, but stressed that further progress would hinge on factors such as any new Covid variants.

That, and proof that the National Health Service is not facing any more “unsustainable pressure”, offer Johnson some flexibility against pressure from Conservative backbenchers who are pressing for a cast-iron timeline to normality by the summer.

Teaching unions say meanwhile that allowing all pupils to return on the same day is “reckless”, but the March 8 target is backed by the main opposition Labour party.

“We all want this to be the last lockdown so we’ve got to come out of it in a measured way, but make sure we are not back where we started in a number of weeks or months,” Labour leader Keir Starmer told Sky News.

– ‘Not through this yet’ –
Also from March 8, the government plans to allow elderly residents of care homes to receive indoor visits from one designated relative or friend, and is expected to permit limited social mixing by the public outdoors.

But the full reopening of retail and pubs, and attendance at sporting events such as Premier League football, will be delayed until later.

“All of us understandably want to go back to normal, but it is right to be cautious,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, noting that nearly 20,000 people remain in hospital with Covid.

The devolved governments of Scotland and Wales, which administer their own health policy, are letting some younger pupils return to school this week.

In Northern Ireland, the administration is resuming younger classes on March 8 but has extended its overall lockdown to April 1.

John Edmunds, an epidemiologist and government advisor from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the BBC: “The vast majority of us are still not immune.

“Easing up too quickly will increase pressure, cases will increase again. We’re not through this yet.” (AFP)

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Lodi si Win? Migz Zubiri ribs Vico Sotto over lack of love life

Does Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto want to follow in the footsteps of bachelor Senator Sherwin Gatchalian?

Sotto’s lack of love life became the subject of senators’ ribbing Monday (March 1) when the mayor went to the Senate to personally receive the Senate’s commendation for being named as one of the United States government’s anti-corruption champions.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri acknowledged that “honest to goodness public service” can sometimes cause a politiko’s love life to take a backseat.

“Kaya ang payo ko kay Mayor Vico, huwag nyang kalimutan yung private life lalong lalo na ang kanyang love life…” Zubiri said, adding that he also got married late due to work.

“ O baka gusto po nyang e-idolize ang ating pambansang bachelor ng Senado, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian…” the senator added.

The 46-year-old Gatchalian is currently in a relationship with actress Bianca Manalo.

Sotto’s uncle, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, joked that there are “many applicants” for the role of the mayor’s girlfriend.

The 30-year-old politiko has said he doesn’t have time to find a girlfriend because of the demands of his work in government.

Parang Duterte lang: Lorenzana declines Sinovac vaccine due to old age

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana won’t be getting vaccinated with Sinovac vaccine donated by China.

And the reason for his decision? Lorezana is too old to get the Chinese-developed vaccine, which has not been recommended by local drug regulators for senior citizens.

The country’s defense actually volunteered to show leadership by example but learned he can’t be get the Sinovac vaccine due to his old age. Lorenzana is 72 years old.

“I wanted to be the first to receive the Sinovac vaccine in DND to build trust and confidence among personnel but health experts advised that those over 59 should not be vaccinated. Besides, the front liners will have first priority,” he tweeted on February 28.

In another tweet, Lorenzana said he was informed that he was not qualified for the Sinovac vaccines.


The Chinese-made vaccines have not been recommended for health workers and seniors by the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to varying efficacy rates.

“I volunteered to be among the first to be vaccinated but was told that I’m not qualified based on Sinovac’s age limit (18-59). I wanted to lead by example to not cast doubt against Sinovac and hopefully bring confidence among DND personnel,” he said in a later tweet.

Although he passed up the vaccine line, Lorenzana attended the rollout of the vaccines for intended health workers in military hospitals as well as Department of National Defense personnel Monday, March 1.

“All is set for today’s rollout, with 100,000 doses allocated for DND Personnel. 29,040 of which are for the health workers of the Veterans and VLuna medical centers, military and civilian staff of the DND-Proper,” he said.

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