Lockdown to only be eased gradually amid plans for future variants

The last press conference discussed how the UK lockdown could be relaxed and how the UK government will deal with future variants.

The health minister said the government was ready and prepared to update the coronavirus vaccine to cope with new variants.

When asked at the recent Downing Street press conference what the plan is if vaccines don’t stop transmission, he said the government was working on whether a booster was needed.

Matt Hancock said the government has a “plan of what to do if we need to update the vaccines to work on new variants”.

England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam added: “Again, the key to this coronavirus is vaccination to move the whole curve to the left. So the vast majority of the disease is one that is manageable in the community – as opposed to tremendous pressure on our hospitals.

“And we can do that through vaccination, and if we do that, we’ll open up to a completely normal way of life in the future – much more normal.”

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam also said that loosening lockdown restrictions in England should be “gradual”.

He told the briefing, “How quickly they can be released depends on three things – the virus, the vaccine, and the extent to which the public abides by the rules, which luckily the vast majority do.”

In addition, it is still too early to be able to say to what extent people could start planning the summer vacation.

“The more sophisticated your summer vacation plans are, in terms of crossing borders, in terms of household mixing, given where we are now, the more you have to make guesses about the unknown at this point,” he said.

“I can’t give people the right answer right now because we don’t have any data. It’s just too early to tell.”

Vaccine uptake dates were also released tonight.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said 91% of all over 80s and 93% of eligible nursing home residents had a coronavirus vaccine.

Speaking at a press conference on Downing Street, he said: “To date, we have vaccinated more than 12.2 million people – that is almost one in four adults in the UK.

“The uptake of the vaccine has so far been significantly better than we had hoped.

“From the work we did before the vaccination program and the surveys, we knew the UK had one of the most positive attitudes towards vaccine uptake, but we still thought we would get around 75% uptake.

“I am very pleased to announce that we gave a first dose to 91% of the over 80s from midnight last night.

“Among the 75 to 79 year olds it was 95%, and almost three quarters of the 70 to 74 year olds were the youngest group to be invited.”

Mr Hancock said the take-up among eligible nursing home residents is 93%.

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