Health secretary says England on track to hit 2m Covid vaccinations a week
Every adult in the UK will have been offered a coronavirus vaccine by the autumn and the country is on course to meet its target of delivering 2m injections a week, the health secretary has said.
Matt Hancock said 2m vaccinations had been given in the UK — including to a third of the most vulnerable people over 80 years old. He said that the pace of vaccinations would pick up in the coming weeks, moving through the whole adult population.
“Every adult will be offered a vaccine by the autumn, absolutely . . . we’ve got over 350m doses on order, they’re not all here yet and we’re rolling them out as fast as they’re delivered. We’re going to have enough for everyone over the age of 18,” he told the BBC on Sunday.
Mr Hancock added that the UK was “on course” to meet its target of 2m vaccinations a week. “The rate-limiting factor at the moment is supply but that’s increasing and I’m very glad to say that at the moment we are running at over 200,000 people being vaccinated every day,” he told Sky News.
The progress on vaccinations came as Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, warned that the NHS was facing “the most dangerous situation anyone can remember”. He warned that hospitals would soon have to turn patients away unless lockdown restrictions were adhered to.
“We cannot afford to let our justified optimism for the future come at the expense of difficult action today. That means staying home and avoiding all unnecessary contact,” Mr Whitty said.
“Every unnecessary interaction you have could be the link in a chain of transmission that has a vulnerable person at the end,” he wrote in the Sunday Times.
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition, argued that the current rules “may not be tough enough” and said the government should close nurseries along with primary and secondary schools.
“I think there is a case for looking at nursery schools, we’re talking to the scientists about that. I think people are surprised that primary schools were closed but nurseries aren’t,” he told the BBC. “I think they probably should be closed.”
Mr Hancock said the vast majority of people were following the lockdown rules, and urged Britons to stay at home. “If you can do something from home and you don’t need to go outside of home to do it then you should. People need to not just follow the letter of the rules but follow the spirit as well.”
To tackle the rapid spread of a new stain of coronavirus, the government will introduce regular rapid testing for asymptomatic key workers. The Department of Health has ordered 2m lateral flow tests, which will be deployed by January 15.
The health secretary declined to say whether lockdown restrictions would be lifted in mid February, when the first review is due. Instead, he suggested they would be gradually lifted before the end of March.
“We’ve always said in the spring and we’ll hold to that . . . obviously we’ll bring the restrictions to an end as soon as we possibly and safely can. They formally end on the 31 March, but we hope to make progress before then.”