Priti Patel said the UK has a “long way to go” before coronavirus restrictions can be eased.
The Home Secretary said it was “too early” to discuss relaxing lockdown rules as Covid deaths and hospital admissions continue to surge across the country.
She told Sky News the Government would not consider lifting any measures until its vaccine priority groups had received their jabs.
Ms Patel said: “We are at a pivotal stage. Our vaccine rollout is under way but we have a long way to go with vaccination.
“We cannot talk about easing restrictions and measures until we are absolutely clear we have vaccinated priority groups.”
Boris Johnson plunged England into its third lockdown in early January after a large rise in coronavirus infections and amid significant pressure on the NHS.
People are cooped up in their homes under the “stay-at-home” order and are only allowed to leave for exercise once a day or travel for essential reasons, such as food shopping.
Asked whether mid-February was still the target for lifting some measures, she said that remained the aim for targeting those in the top four priority groups.
However, she added that it was “no time to speak about” relaxations when the NHS was under such current strain.
Ms Patel added: “Quite frankly, when I look at the incredible work that is taking place in the NHS right now –when we still see hospitalisation figures now standing at over 38,000 people, with the number of people still dying with coronavirus, with the number of hospital admissions increasing – this is no time to speak about the relaxation of measures and we’re not going to do that publicly yet.
“We have a long way to go.”
Her comments came after the UK recorded a further 1,610 coronavirus deaths – the highest number reported on a single day since the outbreak began – bringing the country’s official death toll to 91,470.
Asked, in a separate interview, about the number of fatalities creeping towards the 100,000 mark, Ms Patel said: “I would put it on the scale of tragedy that every single life lost, every single death, is a personal and human tragedy.
She told BBC Breakfast: “All our lives have been touched and altered by coronavirus, which is why we are in the current situation of having a national lockdown.
“You’ve heard me say before that we have to absolutely focus on sticking with the coronavirus rules – staying at home, stopping the spread of this deadly, dreadful virus and disease.
“And also look at the pressures on our NHS … this is deeply challenging and none of us can say, hand on heart, that we’re out of the woods yet.”
Probed on whether the Government had failed in its handling of the health crisis, the Home Secretary responded: “I don’t think this is the time to talk about mismanagement.”
She continued: “We have been with this virus, this pandemic, for about a year now and it is a global pandemic across the world.
“Governments respond very differently – we’ve seen that across the world, but based on the facts, the science, the evidence that has been presented to us as decision-makers. We have seen harrowing death tolls around the world.”
She said there were a “range of reasons” for the UK’s “appalling” death toll, mentioning how people with “comorbidities” are “more susceptible to this virus”.
Meanwhile, scientists have warned that Covid deaths will continue to rise over the coming days, despite the recent fall in cases.
Officials believe there are signs that lockdown measures are starting to take effect, however, the lag between people becoming infected and then being admitted to hospital means deaths will probably not start coming down until towards the end of the month.