By Rachael Grealish
Although over 15 million people have received their first COVID-19 vaccine the Prime Minister said now is ‘no moment to relax’.
Speaking from Downing Street today, Monday February 15, Boris Johnson has praised the efforts of the mass vaccination teams saying ‘this an unprecedented national achievement’ after hitting the 15 million milestone yesterday.
However, the PM said it was no time to relax and there was not yet enough data to establish how the vaccine affects the transmission of the virus and hospital admissions are still running at 1,600 a day.
He said: “This is an unprecedented national achievement, but it’s no moment to relax. And in fact, it’s the moment to accelerate because the threat from this virus remains very real.”
The head of the NHS Sir Simon Stevens added to this warning there is still some way to go yet.
“That is definitely not our mission accomplished,” he said, “I’ve described the vaccination campaign as two sprints and a marathon.
“We’ve just come through the finishing line of the first sprint and now we’ve got a second sprint between now and April 30 to extend the number of vaccinations given to the higher risk groups of the population before then moving on to the marathon, which will be vaccination for everybody in the country who’s eligible.”
If it continues to go well, hopes are to have offered everyone in the first nine priority groups, including everyone aged over 50 a vaccination, by the end of April, Johnson added.
At the same time, second doses will be given to the most vulnerable within 12 weeks of the first, he added.
The latest government data shows that of the 15,839,781 jabs given in the UK so far, 15,300,151 were first doses, a rise of 237,962 on the previous day.
There have been 539,630 second doses, an increase of 1,915 on figures released the previous day.
The PM did have some optimism as he confirmed he would be staying out the ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown on February 22.
He said: “Next week I’ll be setting out a road map saying as much as we possibly can about the route to normality and even though some things are very uncertain because we want this lockdown to be the last and we want progress to be cautious, but also irreversible.”
However, Johnson couldn’t really give any guarantee this lockdown would be the last when asked by Alex Forsyth, of the BBC, whether he can ‘assure people’.
The PM said: “I can’t give that guarantee, of course not. We are battling with nature, with a disease that is capable of mutating and changing.
“I am increasingly confident about the sheer extent of the possibilities that are opening up with vaccinations.
“I’ll be setting out as much as a timetable as we can give on February 22.”
But asked for a ‘cast iron guarantee’ he said he couldn’t give one.
“I don’t want people to think I’m not optimistic. There’s been a big change,” he added.
Today a further 230 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, bringing the UK total to 117,396.
However, for the first time since October 2020 the number of daily new cases dropped below 10,000 as there was another 9,765 confirmed coronavirus cases.