HEALTH Secretary Matt Hancock said he is “so proud” as he hailed the UK’s record vaccine rollout, with 930,000 Brits jabbed over the weekend.
Praising the “mammoth effort” Mr Hancock revealed almost nine out of 10 of all over-80s and half of over-70s have had their first jab.
Matt Hancock led tonight’s Downing Street press conferenceCredit: PA:Press Association
Around 9.2 million Brits have received at least one injection, with a staggering one in 60 adults receiving a dose over the weekend alone.
All care home residents and staff have been offered a jab, with Mr Hancock praising Britain’s “incredible” vaccine rollout.
And another 40 million doses of the Valneva vaccine have now been secured, with the UK having now ordered 400 million jabs altogether, the Health Secretary confirmed.
If it gains approval, the Valneva vaccine will be manufactured in Livingston in Scotland.
But announcing 105 cases of the South African mutation of the virus had now been found in the UK Mr Hancock stressed it was “on all of us to contain this new variant” as he warned people in affected areas to stay at home.
Eleven are not linked to international travel, with Mr Hancock admitting there more may be more cases.
At this evening’s Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock said: “I am so proud of our team who have now vaccinated 9.2 million people across the UK.
“I know just how much these jabs mean to people. We have invested early, and at risk before we know for sure if it will come good.
“Because from the start we have taken a no regrets attitude to backing vaccines.
“We have tried to leave nothing on the table.”
And he said Britain is building up a “large scale” vaccine manufacturing capability to battle the virus.
In an apparent nod to the SNP’s demand for a second referendum on Scottish independence, he stressed the vaccine rollout’s success showed “how important it is the whole UK working as one, together.”
It comes after a furious row with the EU over vaccine supplies exploded last week, with Brussels threatening to block life-saving jabs coming to the UK.
Trade Secretary Liz Truss has said Britain is ready to send leftover vaccines to its “friends and neighbours” as soon as our population is protected
Mr Hancock said his “attitude was we protect every UK citizen as fast as we can, but at the same time we are generous around the world” insisting it was a “global effort”.
The Oxford-Astrazenca jab was the only vaccine being supplied to the world at cost, he stressed.
I am so proud of our team who have now vaccinated 9.2 million people across the UK
It comes as it was announced door-to-door mass testing for 80,000 people will be urgently rolled out in eight areas of England amid fears the South African variant of Covid has spread.
Health officials said 11 people have been identified over the last five or six days who have tested positive for the strain – but have no links to travel.
Mobile testing units are being sent into the affected areas of London, the West Midlands, East of England, South East and the North West.
Anyone in the W7, N17, CR4, WS2, ME15, EN10, GU21 or PR9 postcodes will be asked to get a test.
Mr Hancock admitted “there may be further cases that we don’t know about yet, and genomic sequencing is in place to try to try to spot them”.
He said: “We’ve now identified 105 cases of this variant here – 11 of those cases don’t appear to have any links to international travel.
“There’s currently no evidence to suggest this variant is any more severe but we need to come down on it hard.”
He added: “If you live in one of these postcodes where we’re sending in enhanced testing then it’s imperative that you stay at home and you get a test even if you don’t have symptoms.
“This is so important so we can break the chain of the transmission of this new variant and we’ve got to bring this virus to heel.
“This is a stark reminder the fight against this virus isn’t over yet.”
Boris Johnson gives the thumbs up to patients after they were given the jab a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Batley, West Yorkshire, EnglandCredit: AP:Associated Press
The areas are Hanwell, west London; Tottenham, north London; Mitcham, south London; Walsall in the West Midlands; Broxbourne, Hertfordshire; Maidstone, Kent; Woking, Surrey; and Southport, Merseyside.
But Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins pointed to vaccine trials that showed 60 per cent effectiveness against the South African variant.
She added: “We expect all other vaccines to have a similar level of effectiveness, particularly in reducing hospitalisation and death.”
The mutation that emerged from South Africa, named 501YV2, is feared to be 50 per cent more contagious than the original strain but there is no evidence that it causes more severe disease.
Experts advising the Government said they do not believe the current vaccines would need to be tweaked to deal with any spread of the mutant strain.
The South African strain entered the UK in late December, when two people were found to have tested positive for the mutant bug.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has said he is “optimistic” Britain can have a summer holiday this year – but ONLY if the vaccine rollout continues to go well.
Around 9.2 million Brits have had at least one jab, with another 319,038 given yestereday.
The PM refused to make any promises but said he was hopeful people could go on a break – as he made a visit to Batley in West Yorkshire.
The PM was asked how optimistic he was that the UK can have a “happy and free summer” – when quizzed over the lockdown effect on Yorkshire’s tourism industry.
He replied: “The last time I was on holiday in Yorkshire I had a fantastic time…
“I don’t want to give too much concrete by way of dates for our summer holidays. I am optimistic – I understand the reasons for being optimistic – but some things have got to go right for us.
“The vaccine programme has got to continue to be successful.”
The PM has said it would take time for the nation’s economy to recover from CovidCredit: Jon Super
Regional lockdown rules could be ditched in favour of a nationwide approach where rules are lifted across the country at the same time, the PM revealed today.
The PM stressed that he said he had not taken a decision yet – but that the virus was behaving in a similar way across the entire nation, so a blanket approach might make sense.
The PM told reporters: “It may be that a national approach, going down the tiers in a national way, might be better this time round, given that the disease is behaving much more nationally.
“If you look at the way the new variant has taken off across the country, it’s a pretty national phenomenon.
“The charts I see, we’re all sort of moving pretty much in the same sort of way, I mean there are a few discrepancies, a few differences, so it may be that we will go for a national approach but there may be an advantage still in some regional differentiation as well.
“I’m keeping an open mind on that.”