HEALTH chiefs will offer second jabs to all over-50s in the coming weeks to try and ensure the UK can throw off its final lockdown restrictions in June.
There are just three weeks to go until the final stage of Boris Johnson’s roadmap to freedom – but it’s feared the date could be pushed back amid fears over the spread of the Indian mutation.
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All over-50s will be offered second jabs by June 21 in a bid to allow the UK to fully unlock, according to reportsCredit: Getty
So far, just two people who have received both jabs are known to have died of the variant, which is responsible for up to three-quarters of new infections in the UK.
And with confidence in the vaccination growing, Government officials now want everyone over the age of 50 to have been offered their second jab by June 21, the Times reports.
It comes as:
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has reportedly set a new target for the rollout.
The politician is said to have demanded that everyone in the top nine priority groups gets their second dose by that date.
And he warned it was a “race between the vaccine and the virus” – as experts say there’s a huge risk in unlocking when cases of the variant are rising across the UK.
Britain’s vaccination drive has been a huge success.
More than 90 per cent of over-70s in England have already had two doses, and a further 537,000 vaccinations were carried out in the country yesterday alone.
Less than half of those aged between 50 and 59 have had both jabs, according to NHS data – but in spite of that, analysis shows that Mr Zahawi’s new aim is realistic, the Times reports.
Three of every four adults are expected to have had their first dose of a vaccine by next week – while almost half will have had their second dose, according to projections.
More than half of those in their thirties have received at least one dose since vaccinations were first offered to that age group two weeks ago.
Nadhim Zahawi is reported to have ordered a surge in vaccinations – as the Indian mutation spreads throughout BritainCredit: Getty
Mass vaccinations are already taking place in hotspots for the variant, including BoltonCredit: Getty
Cases of Covid are beginning to rise again – although they remain well below January’s peak
Ministers are currently mulling plans for a partial step four in June.
It’s understood that while the ‘one metre-plus’ social distancing rule will be jettisoned altogether, face masks and the work from home order are set to stay in place for weeks to come.
Mr Zahawi told the BBC the NHS will “vaccinate at scale”, but refused to commit to lifting coronavirus restrictions further on June 21.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said a final easing will involve a “trade-off”.
“Hospitals are really under pressure,” he said.
“They’re working full pelt to deal with the backlog of treatment, focusing on the most urgent, and often the most complex, cases.
“Given these pressures, even a small increase in Covid-19 patients makes a big difference.”
Analysis suggests the aim to get all over-50s double-vaccinated in the next three weeks is realisticCredit: AP
Brits were able to sit inside pubs and restaurants again on May 17Credit: nb press ltd
But nightclubs are still closed after more than a yearCredit: nb press ltd
Across Britain, the number of people testing positive has risen by almost 40 per cent in just a week, with another 3,240 infections reported on Sunday.
There’s uncertainty over the transmissibility of the Indian variant – and it’s believed hospitalisations are starting to rise again, although they remain well below the peak in January.
Between May 19 and 25, 870 people went into hospital with coronavirus, an increase of 23.2 per cent compared with the previous seven days.
Meanwhile, 40 per cent more people have been newly-diagnosed with Covid today than this time last week.
A clear divide is also emerging in areas where the variant is now dominant.
Blackburn has overtaken Bolton as England’s Covid hotspot.
A total of 584 confirmed cases were recorded in Blackburn in the seven days to May 26, Public Health England said.
It’s the equivalent of 390.1 cases per 100,000 people – meaning the Lancashire town has overtaken Bolton, where cases are finally beginning to drop and 386.7 cases per 100,000 have been recorded.
Another area of Lancashire, Rossendale, is now recording the third highest rate of new Covid-19 cases in the UK.
A No10 spokeswoman said: “Our world-leading vaccination programme has now protected nearly 40million people with a first dose, and is proven to have prevented many thousands of hospitalisations and deaths.
“Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic, so we will not stop until we have fully protected every adult.”