Speaking at Wednesday’s Downing Street press conference, the prime minister suggested 5 April as one date the severe restrictions could end.
It comes after the government plunged 20 million more people into Tier 4, with a total 44 million – or 78% of England’s population – subject to the toughest rules as of Thursday.
He said: “We want to get those areas out as fast as we can but the data, at the moment, simply doesn’t allow it. The spread of the new variant simply doesn’t give us the scope to do that.
“I think there will obviously come a point when we’ve made so much progress with the vaccine and also with tough tiering that there will be different options. We hope that comes as fast as possible.
“I think that... we’ve heard previously from Chris Whitty and others that April, 5 April, Easter... we really are confident that things will be very very very much better.”
He added: “Obviously we will try and bring that date forward as fast as we can, that’s why the vaccine rollout programme is so important.”
The UK now has two approved vaccines. Rollout of the Pfizer and BioNTech jab began at the start of the month, while a vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca was approved earlier on Wednesday. More than 500,000 doses of that jab will be available from Monday.
At Wednesday’s briefing, Johnson refused to say how many people would be immunised with the new Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine every week.
He said: “We will have tens of millions of doses by the end of March, we are working to get the programme going as fast as we can.
“I don’t want to give you specific numbers at the moment, but I can tell you we are shifting heaven and earth to roll them out as fast as we can.”
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, added it was the ambition that availability – either due to manufacture or quality control – would be the only thing that slowed the vaccine being administered.