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UK winning fight against covid variants as 1 in 3 adults in Britain have been vaccinated

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Concerns remain about the Brazilian and South African variants but contact tracing, quarantine and other measures appear to be keeping them at bay, he added. Latest figures show that almost 17.6 million people have now received a first vaccine dose and 615,000 have had their second.

Speaking yesterday, as crowds descended on popular tourist spots despite lockdown rules, Mr Hancock said: “As of this morning, one in three of all adults in the whole country have been vaccinated – it’s great news.

“We are confident that the vaccine works effectively against both the old strain that has been here for some time and the so-called Kent variant, which is now the main source of infection in this country.”

Mr Hancock said around 300 cases of the South African variant had been found but most were from over a month ago, with only “around a dozen” recent ones.

He also warned that although the vaccination drive is “clearly going very well”, it will take some time to reach all vulnerable people.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “The Prime Minister will set out the road map tomorrow and he will set out the full details – taking into account that we need to take a cautious but irreversible approach, that’s the goal.”

Vaccine uptake has been far higher than the 75 percent rate health chiefs had expected based on similar programmes such as flu.

In some groups it has been 90 percent.

Leading epidemiologist Professor John Edmunds said offering the ­vaccine to all adults by the end of July would make a huge difference, but warned that any easing of lockdown must be slow.

He said: “If we eased off very ­rapidly now we would get another surge in hospitalisations, so we have to ease very gradually, otherwise we will put the health service under pressure again and we’ll get a surge in hospitalisations and deaths.”

Prof Edmunds, who is a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), also said there was “an argument for turning to children as fast as we can” in the jab rollout.

He said: “We’re all at risk and we can all spread the virus, and so until we’ve all been vaccinated – I include children here – then there is going to be significant risk of a resurgence.”

Meanwhile, Prof Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he expected an announcement on the rollout for under-50s at some point this week.

He told BBC Breakfast: “The strategy from JCVI that’s being provided as advice to the Government is just being finalised at the moment, and then Government will make their decision as to how to do this.”

Prof Finn, from the University of Bristol, said studies had shown the vaccine programme was “beginning to have an impact” on hospital numbers.

However, the main reason cases were going down was “primarily the lockdown and not the vaccine programme”, he added.

Statistician Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter said there was some proof to suggest vaccines were having an effect.

He told Times Radio: “There is evidence that deaths in the over-85s and over-70s are dropping faster than deaths, for example, in the under-65s, who have not been ­vaccinated yet, and similarly for hospital admissions.

“It’s not dramatic yet, but I think it’s a strong enough signal to say it’s certainly compatible with the effect of the vaccine.” Sir David, of Cambridge University, agreed that ministers would need to be “very cautious” when easing restrictions.

He said: “A big surge in cases among lower-risk people who have not been vaccinated yet, if there’s a real explosion…we will still see huge pressure on the NHS.”

The Government has indicated that lockdown may be eased nationally, rather than through the tier ­system.

But Sir David said “highly local” measures may be needed in pockets with high rates. He said some “scattered” areas were seeing more than 200 new cases per 100,000 people per week, which was “of concern”.

He added: “What I understand is that they’re going to try to have national measures rather than regional tiered systems since that caused such a lot of problems.

“But it seems to me that there’s still going to be a need for highly local measures that might have to take place.”



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