BRITS should be able to enjoy a “happy and free Great British summer” once most adults have received the Covid jab, Matt Hancock has said.
The Health Secretary claimed restrictions could be eased in the warmer months as the vaccine rollout picks up pace.
Bournemouth Beach is seen packed last July as restrictions were easedCredit: EPA
Matt Hancock said restrictions could be eased in the warmer months as the vaccine rollout picks up paceCredit: PA:Press Association
Mr Hancock offered an optimistic assessment of the year ahead, estimating that most Brit adults will have had the jab by the summer.
But he warned that the country will “have a few tough few months between now and then”, with many restrictions likely to be in place until the late Spring.
He told BBC Politics East: “In six months we’ll be in the middle, I hope, of a happy and free Great British summer.
“I have a high degree of confidence that by then the vast majority of adults will have been vaccinated.”
It comes as new government figures showed that 8.4 million people had received their first dose of the vaccine, while 480,432 have had their second dose.
Britain’s immunisation campaign has surged ahead of many nations in Europe and the West, while poorer countries have struggled to begin the rollout.
The World Health Organisation yesterday urged the UK to halt its vaccination programme once vulnerable groups had received their jabs in order to ensure the global rollout is fair.
The UK is aiming to vaccinate around 15 million vulnerable Brits in the top four priority groups by mid-February – a target which is seen as key to beginning to lift restrictions.
Meanwhile, a new study shows that vaccines may already be slowing transmission of the bug – just two months after the first jab was given.
As inoculations rack up, early data shows the crisis is easing and the number of people testing positive is already dropping, experts say.
The research, which will be published within days, will also provide evidence that Brits are protected with just one dose, the Times reports.
Scientists are not certain whether the jab prevents people passing on the virus, though early data from Israel suggests it could suppress transmission, the Telegraph reports.
Infection rates in the over-80s, many of whom have now received the jab, have fallen by 36 per cent this month. Other age groups have seen similar falls.
While many restrictions could be eased in the summer, ministers have stopped short of promising a complete end to social distancing measures this year.
Modelling commissioned by SPI-M – a subgroup of Sage – found that, in a best case scenario in which vaccines stop 85 per cent of transmission, the current lockdown may need to remain in place until May.
Quizzed on the report this morning, cabinet minister Liz Truss declined to rule out that some social distancing measures will have to be in place for the rest of the year.
The International Development Secretary told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I don’t want to make predictions about the situation in the autumn, I think it’s far too far away.
“Long-term predictions in what is a very, very unpredictable situation are not wise.”