Rishi Sunak is growing increasingly concerned that Government scientific advisers are raising the bar for the point at which lockdown can be lifted, allies have claimed.
The Chancellor is eager to ease restrictions as soon as possible to breathe life back into a throttled economy devastated by the pandemic.
But he is said to be anxious that the nation’s top scientists are ‘moving the goalposts’ on the criteria for loosening measures, which could further delay the recovery.
Sources close to the Chancellor said he is privately worried that talk has strayed from protecting the NHS from being swamped to instead keeping infections down.
Rishi Sunak is growing increasingly concerned that Government scientific advisers are raising the bar for the point at which lockdown can be lifted, allies have claimed
A supporter last night told the Telegraph: ‘Rishi is concerned that the scientists have been moving the goalposts in recent weeks.
‘It’s no longer just about hospitalisations and protecting the NHS but cases and case numbers.’
And they said Mr Sunak was adamant this third national squeeze must be the final lockdown and heralded it a ‘fat lady sings moment’ – the point at which it’s all over.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty yesterday said the country was past the peak of this second wave of Covid-19.
Cases and deaths continued to fall as Britain recorded another 19,202 infections and 1,322 fatalities, down 25 per cent week-on-week.
At a No10 press briefing Boris Johnson hailed the vaccination drive for passing the monumental 10million jabs milestone.
But Prof Whitty warned that the NHS will stay under strain until the six remaining priority groups, which include everyone over 50, are given their first dose.
He told the briefing: ‘The number of people in hospital with Covid has now gone down from its peak, quite noticeably.
‘But as the Prime Minister said, there are still a very large number of people in hospital, and more people than there were in the first peak in April last year. So this is still a very major problem, but it is one that is heading the right way.’
There are still 35,000 patients in hospital with Covid — far higher than the 20,000 at the peak last spring.
His comments were echoed by Mr Johnson who warned that the level of infection is still ‘forbiddingly high’ and that it is too soon to relax current restrictions.
The Prime Minister promised that he will set out a ‘route map’ out of lockdown on February 22, when he said scientists will have a better idea of how effective the vaccines are.
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