Boris Johnson has expressed hope that the current COVID lockdown will be the last thanks to the “unprecedented” vaccine rollout – but admitted he cannot offer “an absolute cast iron guarantee.”
Speaking at a press conference in Downing Street, the Prime Minister praised the “amazing efforts” of everyone involved in distributing the COVID shots after the government achieved its goal of delivering a first dose to 15 million most vulnerable people.
He praised the “unprecedented national achievement”, but said the time was “not right to relax” as the vaccine rollout moved to the next five priority groups.
COVID updates live from UK and around the world
Mr Johnson reiterated his intention to define next week how England’s third national lockdown will be eased.
“Next week I will present a road map indicating as much as possible the path to normalcy, although some things are very uncertain,” he said.
“Because we want this lockdown to be the last and we want progress to be prudent but also irreversible.
“So please keep staying home, protect the NHS and save lives.”
But the prime minister later said that while he was “increasingly optimistic” about the possibility of relaxing the restrictions, he could not guarantee that the current lockdown would be the last in history.
“I am optimistic that we can move forward and open things up, but say that I can give an absolute guarantee that we will not be faced with new difficulties and that we will have to think more and more deeply about some problems, no at this point I can’t, ”he said.
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said meeting the UK’s first goal of the vaccination program was “certainly not a mission accomplished”.
“I described the vaccination campaign as two sprints and a marathon – we just crossed the finish line of the first sprint,” he said.
Sir Simon described vaccinating the next priority groups, including all over 50s, by the end of April as the “second sprint”.
And the “marathon” effort would involve “vaccinating all eligible residents of the country, as well as the winter flu campaign and, potentially, other COVID booster shots this fall.”
Sir Simon also suggested that the next phase of the UK’s vaccination program would see a doubling of the number of vaccines given.
“In this next phase, this second sprint, we are actually going to vaccinate a larger number of people than in the first sprint,” he added.
“And, overall, although the supply will vary from week to week and we’ll have to adjust accordingly, we could drop up to twice as many vaccines overall – given that we also need to do the second doses – which we did in the first sprint. “
Earlier on Monday, it was announced that the UK had recorded another 230 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.
Another 9,765 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the latest government figures, with more than 15.3 million people now having received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
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