Prince William: Holly Willoughby discusses vaccine
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The findings were welcomed by ministers and a top scientific adviser, who believes the country is now firmly on course to end restrictions on June 21. Professor Robert Dingwall, a sociologist at Nottingham Trent University who advises the Government, said this date should now be respected. There had been fears that the vaccines could prove less effective against the new strain, putting June 21 in jeopardy. But speaking in a personal capacity Professor Dingwall said that the latest data, published by Public Health England, “removes the last justification for delaying Step 4 or watering it down”.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi also welcomed the PHE findings and said they showed how important it is to get vaccinated.
He said: “Almost every day we get more encouraging evidence about the difference our vaccines are making to people’s lives – with 13,000 lives saved and 39,100 hospitalisations prevented overall.
“This data is astounding and a true reflection of just how important it is to get both your jabs when offered.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This new evidence is groundbreaking and proves just how valuable our vaccination programme is in protecting the people we love.”
The news came as it was announced that more than 50 million jabs have now been given.
Conservative MPs, businesses and youngsters from Generation Lockdown yesterday said the PHE findings mean that Boris Johnson must not delay the roadmap to freedom.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee which represents Tory MPs, said: “This is very good news and confirms what scientists have been telling me and colleagues.
“It shows that the variants need not pose the threat some would like to portray them as.
“This should reassure the Prime Minister that it is safe to follow his instincts and remove the remaining restrictions on June 21.”
A poll found that 56 percent of people want the Government to press ahead with the easing of lockdown, while just 20 percent are opposed to it. A majority (56 percent) also expect all nontravel restrictions to be lifted by June 21 while a third (32 percent) were planning to take advantage of being able to go into pubs and restaurants this weekend.
In a sign of attitudes significantly changing, 60 percent said they were comfortable with mixing with people outside their households in enclosed spaces.
Almost half (49 percent) said they were less worried about Covid than they were a year ago but almost seven in 10 (68 percent) admitted they had not hugged anyone during lockdown, the Redfield & Wilton Strategies study showed.
The hospitality sector warned that a third of pubs and restaurants are likely to collapse if restrictions are reimposed or the June 21 plans are cancelled. And Andrew Goodacre, of the British Independent Retailers Association, reported that stores across Britain are still battling for business.
Since shops reopened last month, footfall on the high street had been 25 percent down on the same pre-pandemic period in 2019. Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey called for the Government to press ahead with its planned reopening.
She said: “With the successful rollout of the vaccine – and its effectiveness against the Indian and other variants – there is absolutely no need for the Government to put back its already cautious roadmap to reopen the economy.
“There is no justification in continuing to sacrifice our freedoms and the livelihoods of so many people when we have had one of the most impressive and extensive vaccination programmes in the world.”
Mr Johnson was also warned that young people would lose faith in the Government if he and his team did not end lockdown next month.
Teenager Lucy Thorne, the face of the Sunday Express’ General Lockdown crusade, said: “There is a feeling of desperation among us young people.
“It has been like living in a hamster wheel every day because it is without respite.” The 17-year-old continued: “Children need certainty.
“The lack of consistency and the changing policies has meant that many of our generation will have a lack of trust in the Government.”
Psychology professor Ellen Townsend, of the University of Nottingham, said that for the sake of the younger generation, the June 21 date must be met.
She added: “The burden shouldered by young people in this crisis has been disproportionate and unfair.”
The PHE study showed a minimal reduction in vaccine effectiveness against the Indian variant after two doses. Vaccines are expected to provide even higher levels of protection against hospitalisation and death.
The study found that, for the period from April 5 to May 16 the Pfizer vaccine was 88 percent effective against the Indian variant two weeks after the second dose, compared to 93 percent effectiveness against the Kent variant.
Two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine were 60 percent effective against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant, compared to 66 percent effectiveness against the Kent variant.
The difference in effectiveness between the vaccines may be explained by the fact that rollout of second doses of AstraZeneca was later than for the Pfizer, experts said.
Other data on antibody profiles shows the AstraZeneca vaccine takes longer to reach maximum effectiveness. Talking of the latest milestone, Mr Hancock said: “Today over 50 million vaccines have been delivered in England – one of the biggest, most important national efforts in our history.
“Thank you to the whole team who have made this happen.”
In an effort to tackle the Indian variant in one hotspot, where there has been a spike in cases, members of the Armed Forces were drafted in to Bolton to liaise with volunteers and distribute Covid-19 leaflets to residents.
The success of the vaccine rollout has been credited with helping the Tories at the polls. Last night a new YouGov poll put the Conservatives on 46 percent, while Labour were on 28 percent.
A further six deaths were reported in the UK yesterday, with 2,694 new Covid cases.
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