As the country endures a third national lockdown Boris Johnson, alongside England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, updated the nation on Wednesday night.

The current restrictions came into force at midnight on the morning of January 5 following a rapid rise in coronavirus cases and England was placed into lockdown for an initial period of six weeks.

In a televised address to the nation at the time, the Prime Minister said that the country will be placed under lockdown measures until at least mid-February.

Since then, it appears the earliest we will see an easing of lockdown restrictions will be March 8 with Boris Johnson earmarking the date for the reopening of schools.

The Argus: The Prime Minister is once again asking the public to stay at home. (PA)The Prime Minister is once again asking the public to stay at home. (PA)

How long will lockdown last?

The Prime Minister said March 8 was the “prudent” date for the reopening of schools in England, suggesting it could also be a date for the easing of lockdown.

Speaking at Wednesday night’s Downing Street press conference he explained that the government had chosen that date as it was projected to be three weeks after the most vulnerable groups should have received the vaccine, and immunity had set in.

He said: "What we don't want to do now that we are making progress with the vaccine rollout and we have got a timetable for the way ahead, we don't want to be forced into reverse."

"We think this is the prudent and cautious approach. I think it is much better to stick to that."

Professor Chris Whitty suggested pressure on the NHS would lift once all over 50s had been offered vaccinations – suggesting that lockdown is likely to last until then.

With the tier system set to be scrapped, England will move out of lockdown as one rather than on a regional basis, Johnson confirmed, so lockdown will not end until the top nine priority groups are vaccinated, including the over 50s.

When will over 50s receive their jab?

The Argus: Covid-19 vaccine jab. (PA)Covid-19 vaccine jab. (PA)

The vaccines minister has declined to put a date on when all over-50s can expect to receive a Covid-19 jab but figures suggest late March may be an option if supplies continue.

Nadhim Zahawi said a target would be set for reaching all those aged 50 to 70, as well as those with underlying conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease, once the most vulnerable have been offered a jab by February 15.

Previously, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has said the aim is for all over-50s and those at risk to be vaccinated by the end of April.

But pressed on BBC Breakfast about when all over-50s and higher priority groups would be vaccinated, Mr Zahawi declined to set a firm date.

He said: “We will set out our target (for vaccinating groups 5-9) after we have hit our February 15 target.

“But you can do the maths. We did 600,000 in a single day – the deployment infrastructure that we’ve built can do as much vaccines as we get supply, so the limiting factor will be vaccine supply.

“You can see that in the next 10 or so days, we’ve got to do another almost touching five million and so if we keep that rate up, we will very quickly go down the list of the top nine.”

Route map

Mr Jonson confirmed that the Government will reveal a “route map” for getting the country out of lockdown on February 22 but stressed the easing of restrictions are still some way off despite positive news regarding the vaccine rollout.

The Argus: Covid-19 patients in hospital in England. (PA)Covid-19 patients in hospital in England. (PA)

Speaking at the Downing Street press briefing, he said: "It will mean that people will know that the people they interact with have also been vaccinated and that will also reduce the risk although we don't yet know with confidence how much these vaccines reduce the risk of transmission.

"So they do reduce the risk of severe disease and symptomatic disease of dying and they probably reduce the risk of transmission and data came out today to support that but we are not absolutely confident about by how much.”

With studies suggesting the Oxford vaccine can stop transmission of the virus and case numbers dropping, the Government may be tempted to ease lockdown restrictions.

Boris Johnson said that despite lockdown showing improvement we are “no way being close” to lifting lockdown.

"The third way they (vaccines) reduce risk is by reducing the amount the virus is circulating in the population and that we are no way being close to," he said.

Mr Johnson added: "The rate of virus in the community is still incredibly high so that third thing we also need to do is use the vaccine plus the social distancing that everyone is doing to pull the rate of the virus right down."