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Almost Four Out Of Five Over-80s Have Received A Covid Vaccine But Lockdown Must Continue, Matt Hancock Says

Matt Hancock said one in nine UK adults had received the jab

3 min read

The Health Secretary said one in nine adults in the UK had now received the jab, but warned the NHS was still under "intense pressure" following surging hospitalisations.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock said 78.7% of all over-80s had already received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine with more than 6.5m people around the country having now been given a jab.

But he said that death rates and hospitalisations would still have to fall significantly before a decision would be made on when to relax tough lockdown restrictions. 

In other coronavirus developments:

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson said reopening schools was a priority, but that the rate of infection was still too high. Schools are not expected to open until at least March.
  • Moderna's scientists said its vaccine appears to work against the UK and South African variants of virus.
  • Labour called on the government to cancel a planned rise in council tax bills which is set to kick in from April across England.

The Health Secretary said one in nine people in England had now recieved the vaccine, but said that supply of doses was still the limiting factor for the rollout, warning supplies were "tight".

His comments come after AstraZeneca told EU officials that production problems would mean deliveries in the first quarter of the year to the bloc would be cut by 60%.

But Mr Hancock called for people to continue following the lockdown rules, saying the country had "frankly, sacrificed too much" to ease restrictions.

"We're making progress with the vaccine, the end is in sight, and we cannot put that progress at risk," he said.

"There's a promise that better days lie ahead. We have to hold our nerve and persevere through this difficult winter."

He warned the NHS continued to be under "intense pressure" across the country, with 37,899 people in hospital with the disease, including a record 4,076 on ventilators.

He added: "We must never forget the real impact of this disease. The loved ones we have lost; grandparents, parents, friends, colleagues. We grieve for each one."

Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategy response director at Public Health England, said the figures were still "far away" from achieving so-called 'herd immunity'.

She added: "Herd immunity is a word we use to describe the immunity we get from vaccination.

"The big job here is to roll out the vaccination to those individuals first of all, to those who are at high risk of death and hospitalisation and then to the rest of the population.

"Once we have done that, then we will have herd immunity."

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock repeated his message that the UK was a "very long way" from being able to lift lockdown restrictions, suggesting death rates and hospitalisations would have to fall before a decision would be made.

"Of course I understand the yearning of people to get out of this," he added.

"We have to look at the facts on the ground. Most people understand why this is not a timeline decision question.

"The PM has said when we went into this national lockdown, we would be looking at the death rate, the new variant... and of course the success of the vaccine roll out.

Mr Hancock reiterated that lockdown could only be lifted "when it is safe, which means we've got to be careful".

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