Every adult in the country will be offered at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of July, Boris Johnson is expected to announce tomorrow.
The ambitious new inoculation target will form a vital part of the Prime Minister’s long-awaited roadmap towards easing lockdown restrictions.
The Government previously said it hoped to reach all those aged 18 and over by the autumn, but Mr Johnson aims to greatly accelerate the successful campaign.
He is also expected to say that everyone over 50 will be offered at least a first dose by April 15, rather than by May, as previously suggested. The Prime Minister will temper news of the turbo-charged vaccination programme with a ‘cautious and phased’ route out of lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson aims to greatly accelerate the successful vaccination campaign
All pupils will return to school on March 8, and care home residents in England will each be allowed one regular visitor.
By Easter, at the start of April, two households will be allowed to meet up outside. That will be followed shortly afterwards by the reopening of non-essential shops and pubs and restaurants for outdoor service only. The hospitality industry is expected to reopen fully in May.
Mr Johnson will today meet senior Ministers to sign off the final details with the wider Cabinet rubber-stamping the plan tomorrow morning. The Prime Minister will then present the roadmap to the Commons before addressing the nation in a televised press conference in the afternoon.
Last night, Mr Johnson said: ‘Hitting 15 million vaccinations was a significant milestone, but there will be no let-up, and I want to see the rollout go further and faster in the coming weeks. We will now aim to offer a jab to every adult by the end of July, helping us protect the most vulnerable sooner, and take further steps to ease some of the restrictions in place.
‘But there should be no doubt – the route out of lockdown will be cautious and phased, as we all continue to protect ourselves and those around us.’
According to the latest figures, 17,247,442 adults have been given their first dose of a vaccine, with 604,885 getting second doses. More than 1,500 vaccination sites are now spread across the country.
NHS England also revealed that more than two-thirds of those aged between 65 and 69 have had their first dose, just a week after invitations were sent out to that age group.
However, there are fears that a low take-up of vaccines among some ethnic minorities which could delay the emergence from lockdown. A study in Birmingham found more than a third of vulnerable over-70s of Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent have not had a jab. For black Africans, it is 47 per cent and for black Caribbeans it is 41 per cent.
But the figure is only 9 per cent for those who identify as white British or mixed British.
In other developments yesterday:
- A further 445 deaths were reported, down 28 per cent on last Saturday, while hospital admissions fell 22 per cent week-on-week and 10,406 positive tests were recorded, down 19 per cent on last Saturday;
- A former Government education adviser accused teaching union bosses of bringing the profession ‘into disrepute’ by continuing to oppose the re-opening of all schools next month – as claims that Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty objected to a ‘big bang’ return to classrooms were dismissed as ‘total fantasy’ by No 10;
- It emerged that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has drawn up plans to extend business support until the autumn, but will also announce future tax rises in next month’s Budget;
- Pubs and restaurants said they were ready for an ‘Alfresco April’ as the boss of the Leon fast-food chain said extending lockdowns by even a few weeks may cost lives due to the economic impact;
- Demand for holiday cottages and campsites in the UK has pushed some prices up by 50 per cent amid fears foreign breaks will be impossible;
- An investigation by The Mail on Sunday exposed crooked businessmen offering to sell dormant companies in the full knowledge that they will be used to make fraudulent claims for Government coronavirus loans;
- Preparations for the roadmap were hit by a fresh spate of infighting at No 10, with a Tory think-tank calling for an inquiry into the influence of Mr Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds.
- The new head of the World Trade Organisation called on the UK and other wealthy nations to send Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries now rather than wait for a surplus.
Despite his personal impatience for a swift return to normal life, Mr Johnson’s ‘cautious and phased’ approach has been based on analysis of Whitehall data about the likely levels of ‘herd immunity’ after the July target has been reached.
Counting the under-18s too young to be inoculated, those who refuse the jab, and a vaccine efficacy rate no higher than 90 per cent, half of the population could still remain vulnerable to infection, limiting the extent to which the Government can lift restrictions.
Community immunity is usually established when between 70 and 80 per cent of the population has immunity.
Last night, a Government insider said: ‘This is the delicate equilibrium which we will have to establish.
‘Just as we sadly have to accept a certain death toll from the flu every year, we will have to learn to live with Covid fatalities. We are acutely conscious of the effect which lockdown has and balance has to be found.’