Save June 21: Race to get over-50s double jabbed and beat new variant | Politics | News

As the nation’s inoculation blitz continues to accelerate, the Health Secretary, inset, hinted that the lifting of all remaining Covid restrictions could be delayed to July 5. He said he was being cautious as the Indian variant is 40 per cent more ­transmissible than the previously dominant Kent variant. The Health Secretary also said that ­vaccines would be rolled out to under 30s this coming week, saying the jabs are the “way we can ­ get out of this and restore ­ our freedoms”.

He said that ministers would be looking at the latest data over ­the next week before making a ­decision on June 14.

Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme if Freedom Day could be delayed past June 21 if the data on cases and hospitalisations “turned bad” in the next week, Mr Hancock said: “We are absolutely open to doing that, if that is what needs to happen.

“We have said in the roadmap that the 21st of June is the date by which we would not take Step 4 before that date, and we would look at the data. That is exactly what we are doing.”

The Health Secretary also ­suggested ­that ­the wearing of face coverings ­and working from home measures could continue in the long-term, adding: “I wouldn’t rule that out.” Mr Hancock said he expected “around three-fifths” of all adults to have been fully vaccinated within the coming fortnight, with 52 per cent currently double-jabbed.

Indicators suggest the vaccines are helping to cut the link between the rise in case numbers and hospital admissions.

He said: “It’s absolutely true the number of people ending up in hospital is broadly flat at the moment, while the number of cases is rising, showing that the link is not absolute as it once was.”

It comes as figures showed almost 68 million vaccine doses have now been given in the UK.

There were 203,613 first doses administered on Saturday, taking the total to 40,333,231, and 473,378 more second jabs, taking that total to 27,661,353.

Meanwhile, the UK has reported another 5,341 coronavirus cases –significantly up on the same day last week when it was 3,240. The week before it was 2,325.

A further four deaths have also been recorded within 28 days of a positive Covid test. Of the 12,431 Indian variant cases so far confirmed in the UK, 10,797 are in England, 1,511 in Scotland, 97 in Wales and 26 in Northern Ireland.

On Friday the UK recorded its highest number of daily new cases – 6,238 – since late March.

Labour has signalled it could support some restrictions providing they were borne out by the ­evidence. Shadow education secretary Kate Green told Sky News: “If we have to maintain some protective measures beyond June 21, that is what the Government should do, but I think it is really important that it’s ­a decision taken on the basis ­
of ­the data.”

Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair said those who have had both shots should be afforded extra freedoms as an incentive for ­ ­people to take up the inoculation offer.

He told the Andrew Marr show: “Since everybody is going to be able to get the vaccination, other than those who for medical reasons can’t, I think it really is important that people are encouraged to get vaccinated.”

Dame Anne Johnson, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London, said society will need to learn to ­ live with Covid, adding: “We ­certainly don’t want to go on delaying forever.”

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