MATT Hancock today said “freedom is on horizon” and said the UK was on track for all adults to be jabbed by July as vaccines will be ramped up this month.
The Health Secretary also provided an update to MPs on the latest information on the new strain – which has been found in six people in the UK so far.
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The Health Secretary told the Commons this afternoon: “this country is on the road to recovery, we have freedom on the horizon.
“Let’s not waver and do whatever it takes to keep it under control.”
He said that after a “lumpy” supply this month which had led to some drops in the numbers, but they were expecting a huge ramping up this month.
Hospital admissions were falling faster than new cases, he confirmed today.
The halving time of of hospital admissions is now at 18 days – but for over 80s it’s 12 days as so many have been jabbed, he said.
He said: “This is real world evidence that the vaccine is protecting the NHS and saving lives.”
And he referenced fresh research from PHE that both vaccines had led to a more than 80 per cent reduction in hospitalisations.
“So, people can have confidence that they will get protection whichever jab they’re offered,” he said.
Last night the Health Secretary made a plea for the missing traveller with the new Brazilian variant to come forward.
And this afternoon he revealed officials had narrowed it down to just 379 people in the South of England – in one batch of tests.
Staff are going door-to-door now to find them.
A nationwide hunt was launched after the person didn’t put down the right information on their forms after flying into the UK.
They may not have even known they were infected with Covid.
Ministers have branded the new variant a “concern” because it may be more resistant to vaccines – though it’s not yet known for sure.
Mr Hancock told last night’s press conference: “We are trying to track down this individual, but we also have not seen any further community spread.”
It came as:
- One in four people now have antibodies – up from one in five at the last survey
- The levels are highest in the over-80s, the first group to be vaccinated, showing again the effect of the vaccine on cases
- All over 50s are on track to get their jab by the middle of April
- A third of positive tests were now being sequenced to track any worrying new variants
- But 15 countries were revealed to have found the new Brazil variant – yet are not yet on the UK red list
- Rishi Sunak is expected to extend furlough in his Budget tomorrow
Yvette Cooper warned that the Government’s hotel quarantine wasn’t enough – and said more testing was needed to stop people falling through the net.
Eveyrone coming into the UK has to provide a negative test, and then get one on day two and eight as well.
That’s for everyone – not just for those in the hotel quarantine facilities.
A massive effort is underway to locate the missing Covid patient and that they need to be found as soon as possible so measures can be taken to squash any outbreak.
There are nine areas where residents are being urged to get tests as a result of various variants.
Six strains of the Brazil variant have been found in the UK so far – and people living in five areas need to get a test.
Anyone who had a test on February 12 or 13 and didn’t get a result should come forward now, ministers urged.
Mr Hancock added: “We’re therefore asking anyone who took a test on the 12th, or 13th of February, but hasn’t received the result back to please get in touch by calling 119 in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, or in Scotland, 0300 303 2713.”
Meanwhile, the Brazil Covid variant has now been found in 23 countries around the world – and 15 of them aren’t on the UK’s red quarantine list.
The World Health Organisation revealed that more countries have now reported the P1 strain, first reported in the UK but originally from Brazil.
Anyone who comes in from a red list country has to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel – and pay £1,750 to do so.
They will be tested at least twice once they are there.
But more countries are reporting cases of the new variant, but haven’t yet been added to the list of banned nations.
The list includes Canada and the United States, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, Mexico, India, Italy and the Republic of Korea.
Other cases are in the process of being verified in several other countries too – including Ireland.
Mr Hancock told last night’s Covid briefing that the number of cases found in these countries was “exceptionally low” and the red list was for countries where they were found in much greater numbers.