Britain hits 50MILLION vaccines landmark

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Britain has now dished out more than 50million Covid vaccines since the mammoth roll-out began in December, according to official figures.

Department of Health bosses today posted another 250,000 jabs, meaning 34.6million people across the UK have had one and 15.5million – or 30 per cent of all adults – are fully inoculated.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed the ‘massive’ achievement and said it meant ‘we’re going to have a great British summer’.

In a video posted on Twitter, he said: ‘These jabs are saving lives and helping us get back to normal… I want to pay tribute to everybody involved in this huge achievement – the NHS, armed forces, volunteers, councils, scientists & the British public. A huge national effort.

‘[It] seems like only yesterday that Margaret Keenan was getting the first clinically authorised vaccine in the world and now we’ve delivered 50million. And this is so important of course because it is a life-saving vaccine that helps protect you, helps protect those around you, and it is our route out of this pandemic.

He added: ‘And it’s because of the vaccination programme that we’re able to keep going down this road map, and I know we’re going to have a great British summer.’

Boris Johnson told reporters on a pre-election visit to Hartlepool today that results of the NHS’ inoculation drive were ‘really starting to show up in the epidemiology’ as cases remained low despite further rules being relaxed on April 12.

‘As things stand, and the way things are going, with the vaccine roll-out going the way that it is – we have done 50million jabs as I speak to you today, a quarter of the adult population, one in four, have had two jabs,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Britain today recorded just one Covid death – the lowest daily toll since August. Another 1,649 cases were also added to the total infection tally – the fewest daily infections since the start of September. 

Despite the success of the vaccination roll-out coming alongside falling cases and deaths, ministers won’t budge on speeding up lockdown-easing plans in England. Foreign holidays and being allowed in pubs are two measures that are meant to be on the cards for May 17.

The Prime Minister today poured cold water on holiday hopes, warning putting lots of countries on the travel ‘green list’ could risk an ‘influx of disease’. His comments came hours after the EU unveiled plans to let vaccinated Brits in for summer trips.

Mr Johnson insisted the government will be ‘cautious’ amid bitter Cabinet wrangling over how far to loosen the border restrictions this month. Mr Hancock and chief medical officer Chris Whitty are said to be among those pushing for quarantine-free states to be kept to an absolute minimum. 

On a pre-election visit to Hartlepool this afternoon, Mr Johnson also claimed there is a ‘good chance’ that current social distancing rules will be scrapped on June 21 – touted as England’s independence day.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday hinted masks and social distancing measures would be needed beyond June 21. But the PM today said he hopes it will be possible to axe the existing one-metre plus rule when the nation reaches the final step in his lockdown exit roadmap.

His comments came as hospitality bosses said a return to unrestricted trading is ‘critical’ and will mean that pubs, bars and restaurants can ‘come off life support’. Ditching the one-metre plus rule will allow hospitality venues as well as places like theatres to open at full capacity for the first time in more than a year.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed the ‘massive’ achievement, saying: ‘These jabs are saving lives and helping us get back to normal’

Boris Johnson pours cold water on holidays hope warning a big quarantine-free ‘green list’ from May 17 could spark ‘influx of disease’

Boris Johnson today poured cold water on holidays hopes, warning putting lots of countries on the travel ‘green list’ from May 17 could risk an ‘influx of disease’.

The PM insisted the government will be ‘cautious’ amid bitter Cabinet wrangling over how far to loosen the border restrictions this month.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and chief medical officer Chris Whitty are said to be among those pushing for quarantine-free states to be kept to an absolute minimum.

But other senior figures are urging a looser approach, insisting that with the outbreak under control in the UK and vaccines making strong progress the government has no right to keep curbing freedoms.

Mr Johnson suggested he is siding with the dovish camp on a pre-election visit to Hartlepool this afternoon.

‘We do want to do some opening up on May 17 but I don’t think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else,’ he told reporters.

‘I certainly don’t and we have got to be very, very tough, and we have got to be as cautious as we can, whilst we continue to open up.’

The comments came as the EU unveiled plans to let vaccinated Brits in for holidays.

Brussels has offered hope for getaways with proposals for easing border rules for those who have had jabs and from countries with low infection rates.

The UK’s ‘green list’ is not expected to be revealed until Friday, leaving millions of Britons in limbo as they wonder whether trips will be possible.

Gibraltar and Malta might be on the list, but much of Europe and the US could remain out of bounds due to fears over variant strains. 

 

In other Covid news:

  • Covid corpses are dumped into graves in India while a daughter gives her dying mother mouth-to-mouth; 
  • Foreign holidays and nights out are less important than before lockdown, according to a survey; 
  • Boris Johnson hints all restrictions could be removed from June 21;
  • Thousands of Cambridge students defy Covid rules for booze-fuelled ‘Caesarian Sunday’ to celebrate start of summer term;
  • Commuter towns experiencing boom in demand for office space as more companies move towards flexible working post-pandemic; 
  • Gyms, sport centres and swimming pools reopen and two households are allowed to meet indoors in latest lockdown easing in Wales.

Responding to the vaccination landmark, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery called it a ‘remarkable achievement’.

Ms Cordery added: ‘Frontline NHS staff and volunteers have done a tremendous job over the past five months, administering nearly 35million first jabs and over 15million second doses.

‘We owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone involved in the planning and delivery of this huge and complex programme.

‘But while there is much to celebrate with the success of the vaccination programme, we still have a long way to go before we reach our next big milestone of offering all adults their first jab by the end of July.

‘We’d encourage everyone to have their vaccine when they are offered one and to carry on following the rules on social contact. This will help keep infection rates under control and ensure this current lockdown is our last.’

Boris Johnson suggested he is siding with Mr Hancock’s dovish camp on foreign holidays, warning putting lots of countries on the travel ‘green list’ from May 17 could risk an ‘influx of disease’.  

‘We do want to do some opening up on May 17 but I don’t think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else,’ he told reporters.

‘I certainly don’t and we have got to be very, very tough, and we have got to be as cautious as we can, whilst we continue to open up.’

The comments came as the EU unveiled plans to let vaccinated Brits in for holidays.

Brussels has offered hope for getaways with proposals for easing border rules for those who have had jabs and from countries with low infection rates.

The UK’s ‘green list’ is not expected to be revealed until Friday, leaving millions of Britons in limbo as they wonder whether trips will be possible.

Gibraltar and Malta might be on the list, but much of Europe and the US could remain out of bounds due to fears over variant strains.

Portugal is one country that could be added, with advocates saying infections and the risk of variants is now very low there.

However, a cross-party group of MPs has insisted that holidays should be discouraged even once they become legal in a fortnight’s time.

Meanwhile, Thomas Cook chief executive Alan French tried to strike a more positive note about the prospects for later in the summer, saying there is ‘great progress’ in preparing destinations such as Portugal and Spain for the return of holidaymakers.

In other developments today, Mr Johnson also revealed there is a ‘good chance’ that current social distancing rules will be scrapped on June 21.

The Prime Minister said he hopes it will be possible to axe the existing one-metre plus rule when the nation reaches the final step in his lockdown exit roadmap.

His comments came as hospitality bosses said a return to unrestricted trading is ‘critical’ and will mean that pubs, bars and restaurants can ‘come off life support’.

Ditching the one-metre plus rule will allow hospitality venues as well as places like theatres to open at full capacity for the first time in more than a year.

It was reported overnight that one-way systems, screens and mask-wearing while moving around could remain in place in hospitality settings beyond June 21 but customer numbers will no longer be limited.

Audiences in theatres and cinemas will have to wear face coverings during performances, while there will be strict guidance on ventilation and staggered entry, according to The Times.

Mr Johnson said on a visit to Hartlepool: ”I think that we will be able to go ahead, feels like May 17 is going to be good.

‘But it also looks to me as though June 21 we’ll be able to say social distancing as we currently have to do it, the one-metre plus, I think we have got a good chance of being able to dispense with the one-metre plus from June 21.

‘That is still dependent on the data, we can’t say it categorically yet, we have got to look at the epidemiology as we progress, we have got to look at where we get to with the disease. But that’s what it feels like to me right now.’

The ultra-cautious roadmap out of lockdown will see curbs on holidays and larger gatherings lifted on May 17, with all indicators suggesting this will still go ahead.

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has also suggested ‘some safeguards’ such as wearing face masks and social distancing, will have to stay in place beyond June 21.

Government advisers said last month that face masks could be dumped over the summer as the vaccines do the heavy lifting in controlling Covid.

But they cautioned that masks and possibly other measures may be needed next Autumn and Winter should cases pick up again. 

Covid infection rates across the UK in the week to April 27, the latest available. Department of Health statistics showed nine in ten councils saw their cases fall throughout April. The highest infection rate was in Selby, North Yorkshire

Almost 60 per cent of Britain would now be on the original ‘green list’ permitting travellers to return from abroad without facing burdensome self-isolation requirements, official Covid figures revealed today.

Department of Health statistics showed 218 of 380 councils had a coronavirus infection rate below 20 cases per 100,000 in the week to April 27, the latest available.

Last summer ministers slapped arduous 14-day quarantine requirements on travellers arriving from countries with infection rates above that level. The self-isolation period for all foreign travel has now been shortened to ten days but holidays abroad are still banned until at least May 17.

Figures also showed nine in ten local authorities saw their outbreaks shrink in April. Only Selby in North Yorkshire now has an infection rate above 100 per 100,000. For comparison, there were 23 authorities above that level at the end of March.

Experts said all figures were looking ‘very optimistic’, suggesting Britain was ‘over the worst’ of the pandemic and would never again see the spiralling Covid deaths and hospitalisations as in the darkest days of January because of the mammoth vaccination roll-out. More than 50million jabs have now been dished out.

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