Boris Johnson is on course to hit his target of 15 million first vaccine doses by Valentine’s Day.
As the Government said yesterday that a further 494,163 jabs have been given – bringing the total to 11,465,210 – there was growing confidence that the Prime Minister’s ambition to vaccinate the most vulnerable priority groups before February 15 would be met.
The average daily number of first vaccinations given over the past week is 440,896 – meaning the 15 million landmark could be hit inside a week.
Growing anticipation of reaching the milestone came as the number of reported deaths fell to 828, down 31 per cent on a week ago, and new infections dropped by a fifth to 18,262.
As the Government said yesterday that a further 494,163 jabs have been given – bringing the total to 11,465,210 – there was growing confidence that the Prime Minister’s (pictured) ambition to vaccinate the most vulnerable priority groups before February 15 would be met
Dr Clive Dix, the new chair of the vaccines taskforce, said he was ‘very optimistic’ of giving jabs to all over-50s by May. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: ‘We will work day and night to ensure we meet whatever the target that’s feasible can be met. So I’m very optimistic that we will meet the May target.’
He added Britain would be ‘ahead of the game’ in anticipating variants of coronavirus.
However, concern about the potential impact of mutations of Covid-19 was underlined as so-called surge testing for the South Africa variant was extended to two postal areas of Worcestershire, covering around 6,000 people.
In other developments:
- Cabinet Ministers vowed the UK would repeat its triumph over the EU in the vaccine rollout in the race to return to offices. It came as Health Secretary Matt Hancock backed The Mail on Sunday’s Tests at Work campaign and said the Government’s workplace coronavirus testing pilot scheme will be extended to all companies with more than 50 staff;
- As Ministers struggled to find accommodation for passengers forced to quarantine after arriving from virus hotspots, this newspaper found hundreds of asylum seekers housed at a large hotel near Heathrow airport;
- In an article for the MoS, the bosses of Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester Airports Group issued a plea for financial support and revealed they are losing £50 million a week;
- Hundreds of teachers, nursery workers and other school staff have been vaccinated against Covid-19 by mistake after messages apparently inviting them for jabs were circulated on WhatsApp;
- RAF flights of the vaccine to Gibraltar mean almost 40 per cent of residents have been inoculated, ten times higher than in neighbouring Spain;
- Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith accused the EU of ‘kissing the backside of Russia’ for seeking help from Moscow with vaccine supplies.
In Israel, one of the few countries to rival the UK for the speed of its vaccine roll-out, officials revealed that coronavirus cases had plunged since it started to administer the second Pfizer dose on January 10.
Daily case rates for over-60s have fallen by 46 per cent compared to the mid-January peak, while hospital admissions have dropped by 35 per cent.
Professor Eran Segal said: ‘The magic has started.’