Almost 1 in 4 Brit adults have received Covid vaccine with 12.2m jabbed as Matt Hancock says we've 'turned a corner'

ALMOST one in four British adults have received the coronavirus vaccine – as Matt Hancock said the country had "turned a corner" in the battle against the bug. 

The Health Secretary tonight revealed that an incredible 12.2 million Brits had received the jab, in a huge boost to the government's target of vaccinating the top four priority groups by February 15.

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Flanked by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam and Medical Director of NHS England Nikki Kanani, Mr Hancock told tonight's Downing Street briefing that 91 per cent of over-80s had received the first dose. 

He added that a phenomenal 95 per cent of Brits aged between 75 and 79 had also got the first dose of the jab.

And Mr Hancock revealed that three-quarters of all those aged 70-74, the most recent group to receive the vaccine, had been jabbed. 

The Health secretary added that 93 per cent of eligible care home residents had also received their first dose.

This far surpasses the government's previous estimation that vaccine uptake would peak at around 75 per cent, Mr Hancock said.

It comes as:

  • The UK saw the lowest daily death toll in six weeks after 333 more people died.
  • Jonathan Van-Tam said the South African strain is NOT more transmissible than Kent mutant strain.
  • Over-70s who've not yet had the Covid vaccine have been urged to contact the NHS.
  • Boris Johnson has refused to rule out cutting summer holiday to help kids catch up on missed classes.
  • The PM also warned that lockdown could be extended if the South African variant to spread.

Mr Hancock also said that the government was carrying out 4.5 million tests every week in a bid to curb transmission of the bug.

But he urged Brits not to let the guard down despite the vaccination success, adding: "The number of people in hospital is still far too high, but it is falling.

"The number of people dying from this disease is also far too high, but that is falling too.

"We're turning a corner in our battle against coronavirus."

TESTING BLITZ

Mr Hancock also announced that the government had secured 20 million Covid tests made by Derby-based manufacturer SureScreen Diagnostics.

The lateral flow antigen tests, which can return results in under 30 minutes, have also been proven to detect the highly transmissible 'Kent' strain, authorities said.

Mr Hancock added: "Rapid lateral flow tests strengthen our national response to the virus significantly, helping us to identify the around one in three people who are asymptomatic and break chains of transmission in our workplaces and communities.

"The brilliant work done by SureScreen, and the contribution it will make to our rapid testing programme, is another example of the home-grown talent, ingenuity and industry that exists right here in the UK."

The Health Secretary also addressed concerns that vaccines could be less effective against new variants of the virus.

Mr Hancock said: "The evidence is that the existing vaccines have some effect against new variants, particularly preventing serious illness and mortality."

To help combat new variants, he said Britain had entered into a partnership with the manufacturer CureVac to develop vaccines that could be quickly adapted as strains were identified.

He added: "We've agreed an initial supply of 50 million doses to add to the 400 million doses that are already in our vaccine portfolio."

'NOT CONCERNED'

Jonathan Van-Tam tonight reassured Brits that the South African variant is not more transmissible than the Kent strain – and is unlikely to become dominant in the UK.

The deputy CMO said tonight that the South Africa variant was not more easily spread, adding: "It's not going to over-run or overtake [the other virus] in the next few months.

"That is the most likely scenario," he added.

"I don't think that this is something we should be concerned about right at this point at this time."

It follows the publication of a joint study – from South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand and Oxford University – which suggested the Oxford jab could be less effective against mild disease caused by the South African variant.

However, researchers still believe the Oxford vaccine is effective in preventing severe disease, hospital admissions and deaths, and also works well against the original coronavirus strain.

“Surge” testing is currently underway in twelve areas of the UK where the variant has been detected in a bid to contain the spread.

 

The rapid pace of rollout means the aim of vaccinating the top four priority groups, including all over 70s, is set to be achieved three days ahead of the February 15 target, according to analysis by the Spectator.

Earlier Mr Hancock hailed a new Government contract for 20 million British-made Covid tests that will be vital to the bid to unlock the economy.

The lateral flow tests, made by Derby-based SureScreen Diagnostics, produce a result in under 30 minutes and can be rolled out at work places and schools.

It comes after a scientist with the Sage advisory group today warned lockdown could last longer if the mutant variant, which is more resistant to jabs, spreads throughout Britain.

Dr Mike Tildesley said "it's very possible" the variant is already widespread in the UK, as it was confirmed 147 cases have now been detected in the country.

He said: "The fact we're starting to see cases in the hundreds, albeit in the low hundreds, means that unless we've really got on top of this quickly, I would expect we could see quite a few more cases coming over the next few weeks and possibly quite a little bit more widespread, so it's a real concern."

South Africa has temporarily halted the rollout of the AZ vaccine there, and is prioritising other jabs that are more effective against the strain.

But scientists and ministers have said the AstraZeneca dose is still likely to prevent serious illness and death in patients with the South African variant.

They also stressed the vaccine has been shown to be highly effective against all the strains currently prevalent in the UK.

But health minister Edward Argar revealed it's likely many Brits will need a new booster jab in the Autumn, and said drugs companies are working overtime to tweak their vaccines to tackle new variants as they emerge.

He said: "What we would all expect is every year we have our flu booster jabs, or our flu jabs, it would not be unreasonable to suggest something similar here."


 

And he said the virus "will always try to outwit us", adding: "We've just got to make sure we get ahead of the game and we outwit it."

But the health minister, who is Mr Hancock's deputy, got into hot water when he was blasted by Piers Morgan for failing to to say whether the Government has signed any hotel quarantine deals.

The Good Morning Britain host got into a fiery row with him over the new quarantine regime which is due to start in just a week's time.

Anyone coming in from at least 30 'red list' countries must isolate for 10 days inside their hotel – and they can only be released with two negative tests.

It's designed to stop the more transmissible mutant variants of Covid from grabbing hold in Britain and spreading like wildfire.

Today Piers gave the minister a fierce dressing down for failing to know the answers to his question – which he posed a staggering eight times.

Piers snapped: "Why are you letting people in when you haven't got quarantine established yet?"

Mr Argar replied that there is quarantine established for everyone coming into the country – but Piers insisted that "we know most people aren't doing that."

Ministers first announced the quarantine policy for hotels weeks ago, but it won't come into effect until Feb 15 – leaving fears thousands will come to the country by then who could be carrying new strains.

Under the new regime, people will be met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine.

Separately, Mr Argar warned bosses they mustn't try and use health and safety laws to force their employees to get a vaccine.

The health minister insisted jabs have to remain voluntary and there are other ways firms can make their offices secure from the virus.

He was commenting on reports that companies could use existing Health and Safety laws to try and force their staff to get vaccinated.

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