Four million people have now received a coronavirus jab, the prime minister has revealed, as he warned the public there will be no “open sesame” of lockdown easing.
Speaking during a visit to the manufacturing facility for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Boris Johnson said the UK was rolling out COVID-19 vaccines “as fast as we can”.
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“I think we’ve done more than half of the over-80s, half of the people in care homes, the elderly residents of care homes,” he said.
According to the latest figures from Public Health England, a total of 4,062,501 people in the UK have received the first dose of a vaccine.
Those over the age of 70 and any adult classed as being clinically extremely vulnerable will, from today, also start being offered a jab.
And Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News earlier that 24-hour vaccination sites will be piloted in London before the end of the month.
Asked about when restrictions could begin to be relaxed, the prime minister said it would be a gradual process and would depend on successfully rolling out the vaccine and no new concerning variants of the virus emerging.
“I understand completely that people want to get back to normal as fast as we possibly can. It does depend on things going well,” Mr Johnson stressed.
“It depends on the vaccination programme going well, it depends on there being no new variants that throw our plans out and we have to mitigate against, and it depends on everybody, all of us, remembering that we’re not out of the woods yet.”
The prime minister said the government would be able to “take stock of what we’ve achieved” in the middle of next month – the deadline set to offer a first dose of the vaccine to the most vulnerable.
“That’s the time to look at where the virus is, the extent of the infection and the success that we’ve had,” said Mr Johnson.
“It’s only really then that we can talk about the way ahead and what steps we can take to relax.
“I’m afraid I’ve got to warn people it will be gradual, you can’t just open up in a great open sesame, in a great bang, because I’m afraid the situation is still pretty precarious.”
Mr Johnson again maintained that things would look “very different” by spring.
He said: “That doesn’t mean we are not going to be living with the consequences of the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic for a while to come – the economic consequences and the threat to our health as well.
“We have to remain vigilant about this for a long time.”