UK lockdown restrictions on course to end EARLIER than expected as Brits flock to get Covid vaccines, Hancock says

BRITAIN is on course for an “easier” exit from lockdown because Brits are flocking to get Covid jabs in “incredible” numbers, Matt Hancock declared today.

The Health Secretary revealed uptake of the vaccine has been “far, far higher than expected” raising hopes over the longer term scaling back of restrictions.

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He said the Government had been working on the assumption three-quarters of people would get the jab, but the figure two months into the rollout programme is north of 90%.

Take up has been particularly high amongst 75-79-year-olds and stands at an an “absolutely incredible” 96%.

His remarks came as…

  • It emerged Britain has now jabbed more people than the whole EU put together
  • Mr Hancock confirmed he's booked a summer holiday – but couldn't tell fellow Brits whether to do the same
  • The Health Secretary was set to unveil a major shake up of the NHS before MPs

Mr Hancock did not suggest the Government is planning to accelerate plans that have already been announced, such as the March 8 reopening of schools.

But his revelation that the UK is ahead of where it expected to be on jabs take up will boost hopes for the longer term relaxation of restrictions.

The Health Secretary was asked what percentage of people need to have taken the vaccine for the easing of restrictions to go ahead.

 

He told BBC Breakfast: “The assumption we had going into the vaccine programme was 75% of people would take the jab, and we’re now well over 90%.

“So that has gone far better than my most optimistic projections, and I’m quite an optimistic kind of guy.

“That has gone really very well and that of course does make it easier safely for us together to come out of this.

“The difference between say 80% of people taking this up and 90% is that you actually halve from 20 to 10 the number of people who are unprotected.

“These extra few percentages really, really matter because they reduce the number of people who are not protected.”

He added: “Every extra percent we get reduces the number of people who are not protected and that is crucial to how effective the overall rollout is.”

Mr Hancock said early evidence shows the vaccine reduces transmission of the virus by around two-thirds.

He said: “So that means taking the jab not only protects you, it protects those around you as well.”

His upbeat remarks come ahead of a major set-piece speech by the PM on February 22, during which he will set out a plan for unlocking the country.

Boris Johnson has already said he aims to reopen schools on March 8 providing pandemic numbers continue going in the right direction.

The PM is also expected to set out a longer term roadmap for reopening shops and the hospitality sector, starting with activities that can be done outdoors like al fresco dining and open air markets.

Last week The Sun revealed the hated 10pm curfew will not return when pubs finally reopen in May.

The PM has ordered “a simplification” of rules meaning punters will not have to buy a scotch egg to get served – but revellers will be encouraged to drink outdoors.

Ministers have pencilled in a return for takeaway pints in April, and with pubs and bars able to reopen fully a month later.

But big groups will have to stay in beer gardens and on pavements to begin with as “ventilation is key”.

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