Hancock insists on cautious easing of lockdown restrictions ahead of road map

Remigio Civitarese
Febbraio 21, 2021

The British government has announced that every adult in the United Kingdom will be offered a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July, one month earlier than initially planned.

The government's previous target was to offer all adults the first dose by September.

More than 17.2 million people have been given the first of two doses of vaccine since the United Kingdom inoculation campaign began on December 8.

The quicker rollout will add to pressure on Mr Johnson to relax lockdown measures sooner as he prepares to unveil his road map for easing restrictions on Monday.

Mr Hancock told Sky News that while "all of us understandably want to get back to normal", it is "right to be cautious - it is incredibly important".

"That's 17,247,442 people who will have protection against coronavirus. The PM 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". "We want to set out a roadmap which gives people guidance in terms of how we think we'll be able to do this".

"We've currently seen other new variants that thankfully there's very, very, very few of in this country now, but we've got to protect against them".

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government will need to analyse the data as it slowly unlocks from the national Covid-19 lockdown because it is wary of the impact virus variants from Brazil and South Africa could have.

He also told Sky there is evidence the vaccines could reduce transmission by two-thirds, which could be a factor in deciding whether to vaccinate children against Covid-19.

"There's clinical trials under way as to whether children should be vaccinated". One is that it absolutely must be safe, specifically for children, so that is being now investigated.

Mr Hancock also said the Government believes it had the vaccine supplies to meet the new target of offering all adults a jab by the end of July.

John Edmunds, a member of the government's scientific advisory group, said British hospitals are still treating about 20,000 coronavirus patients, half the January peak but nearly as much as the height of the first surge last spring.

"If we eased off very rapidly now, we would get another surge in hospitalizations" and deaths, he told the BBC.

News of the new vaccine targets came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Sunday with senior ministers to finalize a "road map" out of the national lockdown that he plans to announce on Monday.

He will then unveil the plans to MPs in the Commons later that afternoon and is expected to lead a Downing Street press conference on Monday evening.

Edmunds said it was hard to say how widespread the South African variant was but that, like the rest of the pandemic, it was being held in place by the lockdown.

Labour welcomed the accelerated vaccine target but called on the Government to "urgently" set out how it will prioritise those under the age of 50. But U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that "we now think that we have the supplies" to speed up the vaccination campaign. Many children will go back to school beginning March 8 and nursing home residents will be able to have one visitor from the same date.

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