“What we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage.
“And so that’s what we’ll be looking at.”
Next week on Monday, the Prime Minister is expected to announce whether “freedom day” can go ahead as planned.
The final stage of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown envisages the lifting of all remaining social distancing restrictions.
This means that pubs and restaurants will no longer be required to observe the one metre-plus rule and all restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather indoors will also come to an end.
He also claimed that hospitals were coping adequately with the current levels of infection.
“And if – and it is a big if – if Bolton has gone through its complete cycle and if other areas follow Bolton, the view from the hospital there was that they were able to cope with the level of infections,” he said.
“What chief executives are consistently telling us is that it is a much younger population that is coming in, they are less clinically vulnerable, they are less in need of critical care and therefore they’re seeing what they believe is a significantly lower mortality rate, which is, you know, borne out by the figures.”