Britain’s vaccination programme is ahead of schedule after more than 300,000 jabs were delivered in a single day.
Some 3.2million doses have now been doled out – far more than in any other European nation.
Chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance hailed the rollout as a ‘miracle’, with the NHS confirming that 316,694 jabs were administered on Thursday – an increase of almost 70,000 compared with the previous day.
The figures raised hopes that Boris Johnson will meet his target of vaccinating everyone in the four most vulnerable groups by February 15.
Mr Johnson said yesterday that ‘jab by jab, we will win this fight’ – but warned it was still too soon to consider easing the lockdown as any ‘false sense of security’ could lead the disease to ‘run riot in the younger generations’.
Sir Patrick also cautioned against lifting curbs too soon. ‘This is not a natural peak that is coming down on its own,’ he said. ‘Take the lid off now and it’s going to boil over for sure.’
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said major changes would have to wait until April. ‘We’re not going to move from a sudden lockdown situation to nothing,’ Professor Whitty said.
‘It will have to be walking backwards by degrees, testing what works.’
More than 3.2million people across the UK have now received a coronavirus vaccine
Nurse Gemma Reid gives Pamela Eddington, 86, the vaccine at Lichfield Cathedral
Britain’s vaccination programme is ahead of schedule after more than 300,000 jabs were delivered in a single day. Some 3.2million doses have now been doled out
Mr Johnson said around 1.3million people aged 80 or over have had at least one vaccination dose – nearly 45 per cent of that age group.
‘We are steadily building up that immunity, that protection, for the vulnerable, for the NHS and for us all,’ he said. ‘So when the call comes, please do get the jab.’
The Prime Minister stressed that restrictions could only be eased once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated.
The four groups at the top of the priority list for jabs cover care home residents and staff, frontline health workers, everyone over 70 and anyone deemed clinically extremely vulnerable.
Mr Johnson warned, however, that protecting these groups against Covid was just the start.
‘It does affect huge numbers of younger people, often very badly, and the risk is that those numbers would be greatly inflated if we let go too soon in circumstances where the disease really was rampant,’ he said.
‘That is not to say that we don’t want to try to get to [relaxing lockdown rules] as soon as we reasonably can, but there’s a lot of things that have to go right.’
Professor Whitty said lifting restrictions too soon could leave the NHS unable to treat cancer and heart patients.
People receive their jabs inside Lichfield Cathedral which had been turned into a vaccine hub
A member of the medical team administers a Covid-19 vaccine injection at the NHS vaccination centre in Robertson House, in Stevenage
Warning that hospital admissions and deaths would continue to rise over the next few days, he predicted that things are ‘generally going to improve in the spring’.
He continued: ‘I don’t think anybody thinks that suddenly in spring is that it’s all over and that’s the whole thing done. What we expect is for things to be substantially better than they are at the moment.’
Mr Johnson reiterated the dangers of catching the virus via direct contact, saying Covid is ‘widely transmitted’ by handling things which have been touched by others.
In a video posted on Twitter, he also urged people not to leave home this weekend unless doing so is essential.
Warning that one in three people with coronavirus does not have any symptoms, he called on everyone to act as if they have the virus – and ‘think twice’ before leaving home.
‘As we go into the weekend I just want to thank everyone for following the rules and staying at home,’ he said.
‘Jab by jab, we will win this fight against Covid. We’ve already vaccinated hundreds of thousands more people than in any other country in Europe, and this extraordinary national effort is only going to accelerate… but until the job is done, we must keep this virus under control.
‘Remember that one in three with Covid have no symptoms – they’re silent spreaders unwittingly infecting others, and that could be you.
‘It’s safest to assume that you may have Covid, so please really think twice before leaving the house this weekend, and only do so if it’s absolutely necessary.’