COVID jabs are poised to double to a million a day to get all over-50s vaccinated by the end of April.
The pledge came as PM Boris Johnson said last night the lifting of lockdown would be “cautious but irreversible” so families and businesses can have certainty.
Boris Johnson declares this lockdown should be the last with a bid to vaccinate 1million a dayCredit: Getty – Pool
Daily Covid cases have plummeted to the lowest number since October.
He added that Brits should be patient but optimistic their lives will soon be set on a gradual path back to normality.
Britain’s world-leading vaccine programme has smashed its target to vaccinate 15million by mid-February.
But Boris said there should be no “ease-up” and the nation must power on to immunise all 32million over-50s by the end of April.
NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens pledged to double jab numbers to a million a day to hit the next milestone.
The PM hailed the “unprecedented national achievement” on vaccines — but warned: “It is no moment to relax.”
NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens pledged to double jab numbers to a million a dayCredit: Getty – Pool
He told a Downing Street press conference: “We must be both optimistic, but also patient.
“Next week I will be setting out a roadmap saying as much as we can.
“Because we want this lockdown to be the last. We want progress to be cautious but also irreversible.”
The PM will reveal his route out of lockdown next Monday but warned the country not to expect a Big Bang lifting of restrictions.
Instead, they will be lifted carefully to avoid Covid rates resurging and the country being plunged into a dreaded fourth lockdown, he said.
Schools are expected to reopen on March 8, followed by non-essential shops, hairdressers and finally pubs and restaurants.
Schools are expected to reopen on March 8Credit: PA:Press Association
Those aged-50 and over will be offered the jab by the end of AprilCredit: PA:Press Association
Boris is waiting to see data spelling out how much the vaccine has slashed Covid transmission rates before he decides how quickly to ease restrictions..
Studies suggest jabs are already reducing hospital admissions, deaths and infection rates.
Ministers have already been given data showing that vaccination is cutting illness by around two-thirds.
Now preliminary figures comparing elderly people who have received the jab with those who have not are starting to show that it is cutting hospital admissions and deaths.
The number of Covid patients in hospital has plummeted since the New Year — but is still higher than last year’s April peak.
The figure of 23,341 is down from 39,241 in the middle of January. But last April the number stood at 21,687.
Boris said he cannot guarantee there will not be another lockdown but he is “very hopeful”.
The scientific double whammy of vaccines and better treatments has Covid finally on the run, he said.
Having smashed its target to offer all over-70s the jab by mid-February, the UK is moving to Phase 2 of the rollout.
Some 17million aged 50 and over will be offered the jab by the end of April.
At its best, Britain’s programme vaccinated 600,000 people a day.
But Sir Simon vowed to double the numbers so he can hit the April deadline while those who have already had the jab get their second dose.
Over half a million have had both so far.
He said: “Today is definitely not mission accomplished. I have described the vaccination campaign as two sprints and a marathon.
“We have come through the line of the first sprint, and now have got a second sprint between now and April 30 to extend the number of vaccinations given to the higher risk groups of the population — before then moving on to the marathon, which will be vaccination for everybody in the country who is eligible.”
On the new April target, he added: “If supply increases then we think we can go faster. But that at the moment represents still a doubling of the number of vaccines delivered over the next ten or 11 weeks compared to those that have been delivered over the last ten weeks.
“So it is a pretty substantial ramp-up in this second sprint that we’re about to embark on.”
NHS GPs who have done the lion’s share are chomping at the bit to go faster if new vaccines supplies can be snapped up, he said.
Turning to the PM at his side, he declared: “Give us the tools, the vaccines — and we will finish the job.”
Yesterday, there were 9,765 new infections logged in 24 hours, finally dipping below 10,000.
The last time daily cases were that low was on October 2, when 6,969 were recorded.
Another 230 deaths from the virus were reported — the lowest daily death toll recorded since the start of the third lockdown.
Numbers on a Monday do tend to be lower due to a backlog in reporting over the weekend.
But the latest figures are down considerably from the same day last week.
The Sun Says
THE PM is right to hail the heroes behind the incredible vaccination numbers.
They include thousands of selfless volunteers in our Jabs Army — and we are proud to add new recruit John Barrowman to their ranks.
The former Doctor Who actor is in awe of those giving up their time to help inoculate the vulnerable.
He can’t wait to get the jab himself, like his parents, and knows it is the only safe way out of the pandemic.
So it is worrying to hear of cases like the Midlands hospital trust where only a third of black healthcare workers have had the vaccine, especially since ethnic minorities may be at increased risk from the virus.
They need the protection of the jab, not fake news and half-baked conspiracy theories peddled by crackpot anti-vaxxers.
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