Boris Johnson warns of threat of coronavirus to younger people
But the Prime Minister vowed “things will look very different by spring” after revealing four million jabs had been delivered so far. He insisted the effort to protect the population against the virus was being delivered “as fast as we can”. Figures yesterday showed that double the number of people are now being vaccinated every day in the UK than in any other country in Europe. But more patients are now in hospital than at any time in the pandemic. Mr Johnson sounded his note of cautious optimism during a visit to the manufacturing centre for the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
He warned not to expect a sudden “open sesame” lifting of lockdown restrictions, despite the rapid progress in delivering jabs.
The PM said: “Four million done so far. I think we’ve done more than half of the over-80s, half of the people in care homes, the elderly residents of care homes.
“I understand completely that people want to get back to normal as fast as we possibly can. It does depend on things going well.
“It depends on the vaccination programme going well.
“It depends on there being no new variants that throw our plans out and we have to mitigate against. And it depends on everybody, all of us, remembering that we’re not out of the woods yet.
“We’re going as fast as we can. But I stress we can do everything we can to open up but, when we come to February 15, and the moment when we have to take stock of what we’ve achieved, that’s the time to look at where the virus is, the extent of the infection and the success that we’ve had.
Boris Johnson visited the manufacturing centre for the vaccine developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca
“It’s only really then that we can talk about the way ahead and what steps we can take to relax.
“I’m afraid I’ve got to warn people it will be gradual, you can’t just open up in a great open sesame, in a great bang, because I’m afraid the situation is still pretty precarious.”
Mr Johnson insisted that things would look “very different by the spring”.
He added: “That doesn’t mean we are not going to be living with the consequences of the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic for a while to come – the economic consequences and the threat to our health as well.
“We have to remain vigilant about this for a long time.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the country was getting coronavirus “under control” but urged people not to “blow it” by dodging the lockdown rules.
The PM vowed ‘things will look very different by spring’
Mr Hancock warned that the NHS remains under intense pressure with the number of patients in hospital, with the disease at the highest level since the outbreak began. He delivered his plea to Britons to keep following social distancing rules at a Downing Street news conference yesterday.
The Health Secretary said: “Don’t blow it now. We’re on the route out.
“We’re protecting the most vulnerable. We’re getting the virus under control.
“Together, I know we can do it and we’ve got to stick at it, especially with our plans for all adults in the UK to be offered a Covid vaccine by September.” A total of 599 deaths from coronavirus were announced yesterday and more than 37,000 new infections were recorded.
Mr Hancock said: “The NHS is under significant pressure in all parts of the country.
“There are 367,475 people in UK hospitals with coronavirus – that is the highest it has been throughout the pandemic.
The Health Secretary warned that the NHS remains under intense pressure
“Someone is admitted to hospital every 30 seconds.” Mr Hancock promised that the Government’s mass vaccination programme continued to “accelerate and expand”.
Within the next four weeks, everyone aged over 80 in the UK will have been offered a coronavirus-fighting injection, he said.
He added: “We’re currently vaccinating more than double the rate per person per day than any other country in Europe.
“The latest data shows that we’ve now vaccinated more than half of those over 80 as well as half of our elderly care home residents.
“We all know that these are the groups that are most vulnerable to Covid.
“We know that every jab counts and I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to meet this milestone.”
The latest Government figures showed that of the 4,514,602 jabs given in the UK so far, 4,062,501 were first doses – a rise of 225,407 on the previous day’s figures. Some 452,301 were second doses, an increase of 2,565 on figures released the previous day.
In Northern Ireland, a total of 125,717 people have received a first dose so far, a daily rise of 5,330.
Mr Hancock said: “I think we are going to have a great British summer.
“We have got a lot of work to do by then but we have got a line of sight to vaccinating everyone by September and anything beyond that would be a bonus.”
Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, said the pressure on hospitals will not begin to reduce for “some time”.
He added: “It is absolutely critical that we continue to stick to those social distancing rules that are in place.
The PM warned not to expect a sudden ‘open sesame’ lifting of lockdown restrictions
“That we don’t rely yet on vaccines coming to our rescue.
“It will be some time before the effects of the vaccination programme are seen through into reducing pressure on hospitals.
“We all have a role to play in reducing the risk of transmission.”
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday suggested that lockdown measures could start to lift in early March.
He said: “It will be gradual, it will be probably through the tiered system, but you’re looking at that sort of period – two to three weeks after the middle of February.”
He also signalled the Government’s intention to pilot 24-hour jabs in London hospitals by the end of January.