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The coronavirus tier system has sparked outrage among Britons facing tighter restrictions than before the lockdown, with Conservative MPs threatening to vote down the Government in a crucial vote on Tuesday. Despite reassurances from Boris Johnson that the limitations could be lifted as early as February to appease his colleagues, Prof Neil Ferguson forecast some controls could remain in place until April or May. Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Prof Ferguson said: “I am hoping that certainly by April, we will have achieved coverage of the most vulnerable groups in society, that’s over 65s and hopefully indeed of over 50s.
“That doesn’t mean the whole thing will be over, we’ll still have to have some measures in place. And a large number of people under that age, under 50 are currently in hospital with Covid, but we will be able to relax measures.
“I think we’ll be living with some form of reactive control which will be scaled up and down, depending on what happens with the transmission in local areas, yes, through to the late spring.
“April-May, it is really frankly impossible to predict at the current time.”
Prof Ferguson insisted the speed of the vaccination process will depend on how quickly regulators will grant the three currently-available jabs the green light to start production and distribution in the UK.
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He also reiterated the most vulnerable and NHS staff will still need to be vaccinated first before any restriction is relaxed.
Prof Ferguson continued: “It’s going to be a process, not an event.
“I’m hopeful that we will have healthcare workers and then care home residents and care home staff at least receiving the first dose this year, second doses then some weeks after the first dose.
“And then the vaccine will be rolled out more broadly across the population, starting with the eldest in society and working down to people like me in my early 50s.”
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He added: “Exactly the timing of that will depend on when regulators approve the vaccine, what mix of vaccine we’re going to use.”
Boris Johnson will put his new tier system to the test in the Commons on Tuesday but has already been warned he faces major rebellion from his own MPs.
Conservatives have voiced their confusion and anger after finding out last week the new restrictions would put the majority of England under tighter coronavirus measures.
Only Cornwall and the Isle of Wight will be placed under the milder Tier 1 restrictions should the proposal pass.
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Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the influential 1922 Committee of backbenchers, said he is unlikely to back the Government after data on the allocation process failed to provide clarity on how the tiers were decided.
Sir Graham said: “I am pretty certain to vote against the Government.
“My concerns about the impact on civil liberties and fundamental human rights are there regardless.”
The Government has already made a series of concessions to the rebels in the hope of bringing more MPs on side with the plans, including introducing a sunset clause that could see England freed from all coronavirus restrictions in just nine weeks time.
Despite the expected rebellion, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party will abstain during the vote thus granting the Government a sure victory.
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