Last night (6 January) MPs voted to back the latest national lockdown in England, with MPs approving the restrictions 524 votes to 16.
However, while Johnson said on Monday (4 January) when announcing the lockdown that the restrictions could be eased by the middle of February 'if things go well', regulations published yesterday set a date of 31 March for them to remain in force.
Addressing sceptical Tory MPs, the Prime Minister insisted that the national lockdown could still be eased from mid-February, but described the country's emergence from restrictions as being a 'gradual unwrapping' that will start with the reopening of school.
Such an easing will be dependent on the progress of the Coronavirus vaccination roll-out.
“Our emergence from the lockdown cocoon will not be a big bang but a gradual unwrapping,” said Johnson.
“That is why the legislation this House will vote on later today runs until March 31. Not because we expect the full national lockdown to continue until then, but to allow a steady, controlled and evidence-led move down through the tiers on a regional basis.
“After the marathon of last year, we are indeed now in a sprint, a race to vaccinate the vulnerable faster than the virus can reach them. Every needle in every arm makes a difference.”
With the pipeline for hospitality reopening currently hinging on the successful roll-out of the vaccine, many businesses have come forward to offer their venues as vaccination hubs to help accelerate the process.
BrewDog and Loungers have both offered the Government use of their currently closed restaurants and bars, with the former currently in talks with the British and Scottish governments about using its bars as vaccination centres.
Trade body UKHospitality has also committed to assisting the vaccine roll-out in pubs, restaurants, and other hospitality venues.
Meanwhile, today (7 January) Oakman Inns chief executive Dermot King said the pub group will forego the Chancellor’s latest lockdown grant of up to £250,000 if he allows National Health Trusts to use its venues as vaccination centres.