NEW Covid strains are “very unlikely” to stop the UK from returning to normal this summer – with hopes all adults may get the vaccine by JUNE.
The emergence of new variants of the bug have previously forced the UK to go into its third national lockdown after cases continued to rise despite the measures already in place.
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Now, Brits are looking forward to all restrictions being rolled back by June – however the roadmap out of lockdown has warned each phase of the rollback can only happen if “the Government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern”.
But scientists have now said that the vaccine is being adapted quickly – making sure the nation is on top of the deadly bug.
And in good news, Professor Sharon Peacock, head of the Covid-19 Genomics UK scientific body, told The Times she was “very optimistic” that the immunisation programme would continue to be effective.
She said the new variants were “very unlikely to send us back to square one”.
Prof Peacock said: “I’m very optimistic that the vaccines will be rolled out, that they’ll be effective, and that we’ll be in a better place by the summer and autumn.
“I think we’ve got the capabilities to stay ahead by adapting vaccines, and so I’m an optimist.”
Preliminary data from a University of Oxford study has already shown the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine DOES work against the mutant Brazil variant.
The vaccine rollout has largely been a success so far, with more than 21.3million people having already receiving their first jab. One million Brits have had their second Covid vaccine dose.
Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating all UK adults by July – but hopes have now emerged that the milestone could be hit a whole month earlier.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, told The Times it was “possible” that all adults could be offered vaccines by June.
It comes after an economic forecast published by the Office for Budget Responsibility hinted an faster vaccination scenario.
It stated: “If the rollout speed increased further to 4m a week from March onwards, all adults could receive their first dose by June.”
Currently, about 3m jabs a week are being rolled out – which would mean the government’s current pledge to vaccinate about 53m people would be hit by the end of July.
Boris Johnson has previously vowed that unlocking the UK from its strict rules would be “irreversible”.
And a mystery Brit infected with the P1 variant was finally tracked down, officials revealed yesterday.
PHE had launched a frantic search for someone who had come into the UK with the mutation in February – but didn’t fill in the contact details on their form and couldn’t be properly traced.
The Health Secretary said the patient with the strain lived in a household that had recently returned from Brazil and that testing was being rolled out in Croydon to “minimise the risk of it spreading”.
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Meanwhile, UK Covid deaths plunge 32 per cent in a week with 236 fatalities recorded in last 24 hours.
It is the biggest week-on-week drop since the second wave peak of the pandemic.
Last Friday, 8,523 cases and 346 deaths were reported.