As England woke up to another national lockdown Tuesday morning, a senior UK minister reiterated that the government hopes to be able to "progressively lift restrictions after February 15.”
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said on Sky News that "we can't predict with certainty that we'll be able to lift restrictions [in mid-February],” but that "what we will be doing is everything we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated, so that we can begin progressively to lift restrictions."
On Monday, the UK became the world's first to roll out the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as cases surged.
The country is back in crisis mode as new daily Covid-19 cases soared above 50,000 infections for the seventh day in a row and hospitalizations exceed April's peak.
Meanwhile, more travel restrictions for England could be on the way, Gove said.
Speaking on BBC News, Gove said that the government was looking at "further options to restrict international travel," and that he had spoken with the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that the approach would be a coordinated one.
The message is very very clear for UK citizens that they should not be traveling," he said.
Gove added that it was understandable that "there's a natural concern about people coming into this country."
The minister said that the new travel proposals were still being worked out but they would be reviewing the situation at airports and ports.
The announcement of new restrictions on Monday followed mounting calls from public health experts, teachers' unions and lawmakers for a more stringent lockdown, and further criticism of the UK government's handling of the pandemic.
The UK recorded a record 58,784 new coronavirus cases on Monday -- the highest daily increase since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to the latest government data, the total number of cases recorded across the UK now stands at 2,713,563.
A further 407 deaths have also been registered over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of people who have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test in the UK to 75,431.