Matt Hancock: jabs will beat surge in Covid variants
COVID vaccine: Variants that beat jabs 'will appear' says expert
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The Health Secretary was backed up by experts as he insisted our mass inoculation programme has “broken the link” between infections and the number of people going into hospital. It comes in the face of a surge in Covid cases across the UK. But Mr Hancock said the Government “always expected cases to rise” as lockdown was eased. He said: “We always expected cases to rise as the country was opened up. “The critical thing is the impact on the number of people who end up in hospital for any given number of cases.
“That link has been broken by the vaccine, but it hasn’t been completely severed yet.
“That’s one of the things that we’re watching very carefully, and it’s too early to say what the decision will be ahead of June 21. But we’ll make sure people know in good time.”
Two doses of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines are still thought to offer good protection against infection caused by the Delta variant. Recent analysis by Public Health England estimated that after a single dose “there was a 17 percent absolute reduction in vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease with Delta compared to Alpha, but only a modest reduction in vaccine effectiveness after two doses”.
Further restrictions are still expected to be relaxed on June 21, which has been dubbed “Freedom Day”.
Mr Hancock’s reassurances came as 6,238 new cases were confirmed across the UK in the daily figures, up 49 percent compared to the previous Friday.
It was the first time daily infections have risen above 6,000 since March 26, when the country was still under much stricter lockdown rules, and the second day in a row they have been above 5,000.
Some 11 fatalities were announced, compared to 10 a week ago, and the average daily number of hospital admissions was down slightly over the last week, compared to the previous seven days.
Meanwhile, the weekly Office for National Statistics infection survey estimated that infections had spiked 76.5 percent in a week.
It estimated that one in 85,600 people had the virus in private households in England during the week to May 29, equating to around one in 640 people.
The figure was the highest since mid-April.
Government scientists also estimated that the R number was definitely above one and could be as high as 1.2.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies, said it was crucial to wait and follow the data over the next two weeks.
He said: “The important question is whether rising cases are leading to an increase in severe illness and death.
“We know there is a time lag of several weeks between people first catching the infection, getting ill, going to hospital and dying.
“Which is why we need to wait until as close as possible to June 21, so we have all the data we need to make the right decision.
“I’m cautiously optimistic. The UK vaccine rollout has been a phenomenal success and saved countless lives.
“But we must keep vaccination up and use the time between now and June 21 to carefully look at the trends in the data.”
More than 39 million UK adults have now received a first dose of a Covid vaccine, more than three in four, and 26.7 million have received both doses, more than half.
No10 has repeatedly said that the June 21 unlocking remains on track. But it emerged last night that social distancing in hospitality venues, working from home and masks on public transport could all remain in place after that date under plans being considered to tweak the roadmap out of lockdown. Professor Robert Dingwall, of Nottingham Trent University, warned that delaying the lifting of restrictions would have consequences too.
He said: “There is no value in delay. A couple of weeks is neither here nor there in terms of the vaccination programme.
“Any benefits from delay will easily be outweighed by the psychological impact and by the continuing disruption to social and economic life.”
The Government is also reportedly considering raising the number of households that can mix in England from two to three.
It is also considering the reintroduction of localised measures to control any regional outbreaks.
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