England is on track for further relaxing of lockdown restrictions on May 17, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday afternoon (April 28) at a Downing Street press conference.
Mr Hancock, joined by England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam and NHS England’s Dr Nikki Kanani made a number of other announcements, including that more vaccine doses had been ordered for a winter top-up later this year, reports BirminghamLive.
Mr Hancock also spoke of the situation in India, which has recently had a huge spike in cases, and deaths are also rapidly increasing. There are believed to be around 18 million Covid cases in the country, and the death toll has reached over 200,000.
The Cabinet minister told a Downing Street press conference: “We’ve all seen the harrowing pictures of what is happening in India.
“I think it pains each one of us who is seeing those scenes, not least because the bonds between our countries are so strong – they are ties of family and of friendship.
“I’ve been in constant contact with my Indian counterpart and we’ve worked across the weekend to put together our first package of support of ventilators and oxygen concentrators.
“More supplies will be arriving later this week.
“I’ve also been working with Health Minister for Northern Ireland Robin Swann to donate large-scale oxygen production equipment from Northern Ireland capable of producing over 1,000 litres of oxygen per minute, which is one of the main needs of the people of India.”
Pfizer doses ordered
An extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus jab have been secured by the UK Government for a booster vaccination programme in the autumn.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Our vaccination programme is bringing back our freedom, but the biggest risk to that progress is the risk posed by a new variant.
“We’re working on our plans for booster shots, which are the best way to keep us safe and free while we get this disease under control across the whole world.
“These further 60 million doses will be used, alongside others, as part of our booster programme from later this year, so we can protect the progress that we’ve all made.”
Impact of vaccines
New data came out this morning of how much vaccines reduce transmission between households.
It reduces your chance of catching covid by around 2/3, says Mr Hancock.
This new data shows people with Covid and one dose of the vaccine are 50% less likely to infect members of the household.
We expect the benefits to be even greater after two doses, he says.
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Mr Hancock has mentioned the above, a new slogan for the Government drive to get jabs in arms.
He says vaccine uptake for over 50s is phenomenally high – over 95 per cent, and is rising in people in their late 40s.
Anyone who is 42 or older can now come forward for a jab.
New cases at ‘very low levels’
Prof Van-Tam says the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 is at very low levels compared to where we were in September last year – just over 2,000 people a day at the moment.
He adds that we are now down in the last seven days to an average of 22 deaths a day related to Covid.
He has praised the efforts of the public during lockdown for positive changes, as well as the vaccine.
He says the death rate in older groups has also dropped faster.
Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said the UK was close to the “bottom level” of coronavirus.
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Speaking at a Downing Street press briefing on Wednesday he said: “We are really in very low levels that are comparable to where we were in September last year.
“We are running as a typical seven-day average at just over 2,000 people testing positive per day.
“My sense is that probably we are at or close to the bottom at the moment in terms of this level of disease in the UK.”
Pandemic is not over
Hancock said the worsening coronavirus situation in India emphasised the pandemic was not yet over.
“Everyone across this whole United Kingdom stands side-by-side with the people of India in these troubled times, because in this battle against coronavirus we are all on the same side – this fight is a global fight,” the Health Secretary told a Downing Street briefing.
“And when other nations face their hour of need, as we’ve faced our hour of need here at home, we’ll be there.
“The situation in India is a stark reminder that this isn’t over yet.
“It shows how important it is that we are vigilant here at home.”
Vaccination rollout “on track”
Dr Nikki Kanani is “pleased and encouraged” to see the UK’s vaccination programme is “on track”.
Since jabs opened up to the over-45s on Monday nearly three-quarters of a million people have booked a jab.
Care home residents
Mr Hancock says the government is “working” to get care home residents outdoors.
The question came from a Derby resident.
Prof Van-Tam says this is “desperately important for people’s mental health” but adds it has to be done carefully.
LBC asked whether the government was sticking “rigidly” to rules laid out in February, rather than taking into account current data.
They asked whether funeral rules would be relaxed.
Mr Hancock said the country is following the roadmap and the dates are “not before dates”.
“The good news is that the next step – and we are going to keep monitoring the data, but we are ON track for the next step on May 17,” Mr Hancock said.
“And given that this is a coronavirus press conference, you won’t be surprised that I’m not going to add to the answers,” Mr Hancock told the BBC.
He added: “The prime minister has already given [answers] to very extensive questioning. Thanks.”