BRITAIN’s path to freedom has entered the “home straight” — as the UK received another triple dose of Covid good news.
Three million adults in their 20s are now set to get their jab in England as the immunisation blitz today reaches a “watershed moment”.
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And just two per cent of patients hospitalised with the Indian variant had received both jabs — proof the vaccines are protecting our most vulnerable despite soaring infections.
In a third boost, NHS England recorded no daily Covid deaths in hospitals on Saturday or Sunday for the first time in 15 months. But officials warn that due to reporting delays, these upbeat figures could change over the next few days.
It comes as all over-18s in Wales will be offered their initial dose by next week, around a month-and-a-half ahead of schedule, with a pledge to get everyone double-jabbed by September.
Matt Hancock yesterday revealed just THREE out of 126 patients hospitalised with the Indian variant had received both doses.
Around two-thirds of admissions from the new strain were in the younger, unvaccinated population. Speaking in the Commons, the Health Secretary said he was confident “one day soon freedom will return” as MPs renewed calls that lockdown must end on June 21.
Mr Hancock said the vaccine is “breaking the link between infections, hospitalisations and deaths, a link that was rock solid back in the autumn”.
He added: “No one wants our freedoms to be restricted a single day longer than is necessary. I know the impact these restrictions have on the things we love, on our businesses, our mental health.”
Nearly 77 per cent of adults have now had their first shot as the UK races to stay ahead of the Indian variant. And 53 per cent are fully vaccinated against the bug. From 7am today, those aged 25 to 29 will be able to book a jab in England — exactly six months after the first ever Covid dose was administered.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens urged younger Brits to take up the invite, saying: “When you get the text, you’re next.”
He said: “This is a watershed moment as the world-beating NHS vaccination programme enters the home straight of our race to offer everyone their first dose.
“The NHS vaccination programme is a real team effort and it is a testament to NHS teams across the country, that we are able to open up to people in their 20s six months on from that world first jab to Maggie Keenan.”
Infection rates have risen in three in four areas across Britain — fuelled by the more transmissible Delta or Indian variant.
Nationally, weekly case rates are up 53 per cent on the previous seven days. But hospitalisations have remained steady, suggesting the vaccines are working at keeping a deadly third wave at bay.
And if numbers continue to remain low, it will strengthen calls for unlocking on June 21.
Downing Street said data emerging over the coming week will be “crucial” in deciding whether lockdown will end on that date. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “There still remains nothing in the data currently to suggest Step 4 can’t go ahead at the earliest date.”
Jittery MPs warned the Government Brits would not tolerate having to live under restrictions a single day longer than necessary.
Tory Steve Brine said letting lockdown drag on “would be to write Covid a blank cheque and just continually delay”.
Labour MP Toby Perkins urged ministers to seize on the “tremendous success of the vaccination programme” and restore freedoms at least to the double-jabbed.
And DUP MP Sammy Wilson accused the Government of peddling “mixed messages” by promising to restore freedom on June 21 — only to wobble on the commitment as the day approaches.