he UK’s largest ever vaccination programme is “beginning to bear fruit”, the vaccines deployment minister has said, after early evidence showed it was beginning to bring down hospitalisations and deaths.
Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News the “evidence looks good” on the Covid vaccination plan, which has seen almost one in three adults in the UK receive their first dose of the jab.
“Public Health England have been running a couple of large-scale studies,” he said.
Zahawi also noted the team behind the Astrazenenca vaccine had found evidence their jab cut transmission by two-thirds. “Suffice to say the evidence looks good,” he added.
It comes as the Prime Minister prepares to set out his roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions this afternoon.
By the end of next month two households, or up to six people, will be able to meet outdoors for the first time in 2021 under the Boris Johnson’s new plans.
The PM is expected to announce that “stay at home” orders will also be lifted from 29 March, alongside the reopening of local facilities such as tennis courts and football pitches.
“We wouldn’t be in this place this morning… if we’re not confident that actually the vaccine programme is beginning to really bear fruit,” Zahawi told Sky News.
More than 10m pupils are set to return to school from 8 March under the PM’s roadmap, after more than three months of homeschooling.
Zahawi said the date was “ambitious but also careful and data driven,” promising that ministers would assess the impact of returning children to the classroom on infection rates.
Johnson said: “Our priority has always been getting children back into school which we know is crucial for their education as well as their mental and physical wellbeing, and we will also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely.”
The Prime Minister will also unveil four new tests that will determine whether other parts of the economy, such as non-essential shops, pubs and restaurant, can reopen beyond March.
The four tests will be applied to restrictions slowly over a period of at least four months.
Social distancing rules and guidance to work from home will remain in place in the near-term.