Mass coronavirus vaccination sites across the UK have announced they will close temporarily next month due to looming supply issues – as Matt Hancock revealed the jabs have saved at least 6,000 lives already in the UK.
Vaccine centres in Devon, Cornwall and Kent are among those to have confirm they will ‘have to pause’ during the month-long slowdown, which has been caused by a shortfall of five million AstraZeneca jabs from India.
The focus of the rollout will turn to ensuring there are sufficient vaccine stocks to dish out crucial second doses, with staff at many of the more than 150 mass hubs around the country expected to be redeployed.
Local vaccination centres have also been told to close unfilled bookings from March 31, with the supply constraint expected to last throughout April. The NHS has called on over-50s to book their first vaccine appointment while they still can before Monday, or risk facing delays.
GPs will continue contacting eligible patients on their lists. But some vaccination sites including Westpoint, near Exeter, have revealed they will shut between April 1 and 11. All of Kent’s five mass vaccination centres, for example, are set to close ‘for a number of weeks’ from next month.
Meanwhile, Mr Hancock today claimed new Government-backed research had found vaccination spared more than 6,000 lives by the end of February. He said the rollout’s success meant he could ‘see an end’ to the crisis.
His comments to the Financial Times came as forecasts by No10’s scientists suggested the number of Covid patients being admitted to English hospitals is poised to halve in a fortnight, from 294 to fewer than 150.
The projections from the SPI-M modelling group also projected the number of deaths to drop fourfold, from 92 to 20, early next month and the level of inpatients with the disease to plummet from 4,000 to about 2,000.
The promising calculations, which have been presented to ministers, were made after children returned to classrooms this month, The Times reports. There were fears that reopening schools could trigger a wave of infections.
SPI-M’s modelling assumes that vaccinations will continue at current levels. More than 450,000 Brits are being jabbed every day, but there are fears that supply issues next month could drastically slow the scheme down.
Government data up to March 23 shows 28,653,523 people have received a first vaccine dose, a rise of 325,650 on the previous day. Both AstraZeneca and Pfizer’s vaccines have been shown to cut deaths and hospitalisations by more than 90 per cent after both doses and infections by over 60 per cent.
All the the metrics now suggest Boris Johnson’s cautious roadmap out of lockdown is firmly on track and the unusually optimistic projections from No10’s experts will pile more pressure on the PM to speed up his plan.
Mass coronavirus vaccination sites across the UK have announced they will close temporarily next month due to looming supply issues
Matt Hancock today credited the coronavirus vaccines with saving at least 6,000 lives already in the UK. Meanwhile, internal Government projections have predicted Covid hospital admissions will halve by April because of the jabs – suggesting Boris’ roadmap out of lockdown is firmly on track
Projections from the SPI-M modelling group suggested the number of Covid patients being admitted to English hospitals is poised to halve in a fortnight, from 294 to fewer than 150
The group also projected the number of deaths to drop fourfold, from 92 to 20, early next month and the level of inpatients (shown) with the disease to plummet from 4,000 to about 2,000
Government data up to March 23 shows 28,653,523 people have received a first vaccine dose, a rise of 325,650 on the previous day
The unusually optimistic projections from No10’s experts will pile more pressure on the PM to speed up his lockdown-loosening plan
The next phase of his lockdown-loosening schedule see people allowed to meet outdoors in groups of six, or as two households, from March 29.
April 12 will see the first major easing of restrictions as hairdressers, beauty salons and shops get the green-light and pubs and restaurants able to open for outdoor service.
Hospitality is not due to start welcoming customers through its doors until May and some form of social distancing rules will be in place until June 21 at the earliest.
Mr Hancock told the FT he could see an ‘end’ to the pandemic that would involve managing coronavirus ‘more like flu’ with repeated and updated vaccinations.
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Boris Johnson has suggested that some pubs might require customers to produce vaccine certificates, an idea that he had previously deemed unlikely.
Almost 29 million people have received their first vaccine dose in Britain already in the fastest rollout in Europe, and there have been calls to open up the economy faster because of the success of the vaccination programme.
Appearing before a committee of senior lawmakers, Johnson said the ‘basic concept of a vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us’, citing how surgeons were required to have a Hepatitis B shot.
Asked whether ordinary citizens going to the pub might need one, he said: ‘I think that that’s the kind of thing that may be up to an individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord.’
He told the committee the public had been ‘thinking very deeply’ about such issues.
‘My impression is that there is a huge wisdom in the public’s feeling about this,’ he said.
‘People, human beings, instinctively recognise when something is dangerous and nasty to them, and they can see that COVID is collectively a threat and they want us as their government, and me as the Prime Minister to take all the actions I can to protect them.’
The Health Secretary expressed confidence about the UK’s ability to manage Covid-19 in the future, adding: ‘It depends what you mean by ”end”.
‘I see an end where Covid is managed more like flu: we repeatedly vaccinate, we update the vaccines according to mutations and we manage the challenges, especially around transmissions over winter.
‘I’m confident that’s where we can get to. I want to get to a position where we can have an updated vaccine in weeks or months, not a year.’
It comes as Mr Johnson tries to push through an extension of lockdown laws until the autumn, despite restrictions officially ending in June.
A hardcore of as many as 60 Conservative MPs is expected to rebel against Government plans to extend emergency powers to the end of September.
Politicians in the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) blasted the ‘significant draconian powers’ and questioned the need for them to be in place if the UK has returned to relative normal.
However, any Tory rebellion is almost certain to fail to impede the legislation, with Labour planning to back it in this evening’s Commons vote.
CRG leader Mark Harper, who believes plans to ease the lockdown ‘could safely go more quickly’, told Sky News: ‘The biggest problem today is the extension of some very significant draconian powers in the Coronavirus Act which the Government doesn’t want to extend until June, it actually wants to extend all the way into October.
‘And these are quite significant powers; they are powers, for example, for the police to detain people indefinitely and to continue having powers to shutdown events and so forth all the way through to October.
‘And I haven’t heard a single good answer about why the Government wishes to do that, given that the Prime Minister has said he wants to be out of all of our legal restrictions by June.’
The legislation for restrictions over the coming months, as the Government sets out its road map for coming out of lockdown, will see some restrictions remain in place in England until at least June 21.
There are also question marks over summer holidays taking place after that date, amid a third wave of Covid infections in mainland Europe.
But Conservative MP Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the CRG, said the vote was a ‘rare opportunity’ for MPs to ‘say no to a new way of life in a checkpoint society’.
‘I was glad to hear the Prime Minister reassure William Wragg MP at the Liaison Committee today that ‘anything that is redundant will go’ in relation to Coronavirus Act powers,’ the former minister said last night.
‘Draconian police powers under Schedule 21, which have a 100 per cent unlawful prosecution record, must be considered ‘redundant’ to say the very least.
‘I am seeking to table an amendment to the motion tomorrow asking ministers to suspend those powers. I now hope the Government can support it.’