Keep steady and we will be free by June says Boris
His rallying cry came as the UK reported 52 daily deaths – the lowest since October 12. A further 4,618 cases were also confirmed, down 10 percent compared to the previous Sunday.
Speaking at the virtual Scottish Conservative conference, Mr Johnson said: “In the coming months we will beat Covid. We will vaccinate everyone in our country and we will be able to remove restrictions.
“In the not-too-distant future, we will be able to reopen businesses, see friends in each other’s houses and hold our loved ones again.”
Mr Johnson also said the “kindness and perseverance of the British spirit” had shown “how much we can achieve when we all pull together”.
Government figures showed more than 24.1 million people have now received a first dose of a Covid vaccine in the UK.
Mr Johnson added: “We are resolved to keep that pace and accelerate it wherever possible, so that every single adult across the entire UK will have received their first injection by the end of July.
“This effort has shown what the UK can do – pulling together such a massive programme, the biggest in our peacetime history, over such a short period of time.”
He praised NHS staff for their work and applauded the “organisational might” of the Armed Forces, who had “been at the sharp end administering those vaccines”.
Mr Johnson said: “I want to use this opportunity to again say a massive thank you to all of the people that have been involved in our vaccination programme.
“It shows that the great British spirit, that saw us through so much adversary in the past, lives on in us today.
“On the delivery of PPE, on testing and now the vaccination programme, we pulled together and worked as one United Kingdom.
“This demonstrated, quite simply, the United Kingdom’s collective strength.”
Meanwhile, top epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson has raised hopes that things will improve significantly in time to enjoy the summer.
He said he was “80 percent sure” that the country would be in a different place in a few months.
Prof Ferguson said: “It is highly likely that we will have driven Covid down to very low levels of case numbers and we can begin enjoying summer.
“We will still need to monitor things very carefully, and there has yet to be a proper discussion about what we do in autumn.
“Certainly, I think it is highly likely we will have to roll out a booster vaccine to protect against possible new variants.
Boris Johnson visits a vaccination hub
“While I am optimistic overall, I still think there is a 20 percent chance things could go wrong – with the possible appearance of dangerous new variants which undermine immunity given by vaccines.”
Sporting events are among the most highly anticipated activities which could return this summer.
Officials were yesterday said to be considering pilots which could see up to 20,000 fans allowed to attend the FA Cup Final on May 15. Professor Hugh Pennington said that the policymakers should be “really quite relaxed” about allowing outdoor events to resume.
He said: “Having spectators outside at sports, a bit socially distanced so you wouldn’t have all the seats full, I think one can tolerate that without any expectation of any surge in cases.”
He added that indoor events would be riskier and officials would need to consider how people travel to events and what they do before and afterward.
Prof Pennington, an emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, said there were a number of factors that could affect the future trajectory of the epidemic, including how quickly the vaccine rollout reaches younger people and whether cases rise as the lockdown is lifted.
The vaccine roll out continues apace
But he said there was reason to be optimistic, adding: “There’s no doubt the virus is in retreat.
“We’re not there yet in the sense that there’s too much virus about to be comfortable, but there’s much less of it. We’re in a good position from which to continue the policies we have got and, if there’s an outbreak, to deal with it.
“The big imponderable is how much will come out of lockdown contribute to a rise in cases when we’ve had the majority of the population immunised.
“I don’t think anybody really knows whether there will be a rise in cases. One has to plan that there might be, which is quite different from saying that there will be.”
Prof Pennington added that local outbreaks may occur, particularly when people come into the UK from abroad carrying the virus.
But he said the country should not expect to see another national lockdown.
He said: “The only thing would be if a variant appeared that was resistant to the vaccine immunity, and we can’t rule that out. But I think the likelihood of that happening is really quite low.
“We’re in a better place to detect variants than any other country in the world and we have a system in place for responding very quickly.”