The vaccines minister has not denied that ‘firebreak’ restrictions could be implemented in the October half-term if Covid hospitalisations remain high.
Nadhim Zahawi said he hoped the booster programme for jabs would prevent the country from needing to go back into lockdown.
However he warned that the ‘one-way road towards sustaining the opening of the economy’ will only happen ‘if we do that well’.
It comes after the i newspaper reported that the government is planning October ‘firebreak’ restrictions if cases surge after schools reopen.
Speaking to Kay Burley on Sky News, Mr Zahawi did not confirm or deny whether he would endorse the measure.
He said the booster programme is his ‘absolute priority’ as it will ‘absolutely help us to transition the virus from pandemic to endemic status’.
He said: ‘That will protect the most vulnerable to serious infection – that will absolutely help us to transition the virus from pandemic to endemic status.
‘The important thing is that we get that right, because I think if we do that well, we can continue on this sort of one-way road towards sustaining the opening of the economy and, by next year hopefully, transitioning the virus from pandemic to endemic and dealing with it on an annual basis.’
Later in media rounds he said he had not seen plans for a firebreak lockdown.
However he stopped short of ruling the measure out all together.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘The i newspaper was reporting that they think there could be a possible lockdown.
‘Look, vaccines have given us the ability to reduce infections, to save 100,000 lives.
‘It is through the booster programme that I hope … we can transition the virus from pandemic to endemic status and deal with it year in, year out – it is going to be with us for many years – but not have to close down our economy or take the severe measures we had to sadly take in December of last year.’
Asked about the firebreak reports on LBC, Mr Zahawi said: ‘I haven’t seen any plans around this.’
A senior government scientist and member of Sage reportedly told the i paper that the UK is about to enter ‘an extended peak’ of infections and hospitalisations that could force ministers to re-introduce restrictions over the school half-term next month.