One in four adults in England have received a first dose of coronavirus vaccine, Boris Johnson said as he urged priority groups to take up the offer of a jab.
The Prime Minister said that although more than 13 million people had received a jab in the UK, that meant two million more in the top four priority groups – covering the over-70s, health and care staff and the clinically extremely vulnerable – had not been vaccinated.
Mr Johnson particularly urged care home staff to come forward to receive their vaccine before the target date of February 15.
At a Downing Street press conference, he said: “With less than a week to go until the target date of Monday the 15th, there’s no doubt we’ve made great strides, with just over 13 million people now vaccinated in our United Kingdom, including one in four adults in England, over 90% of everyone over 75 and over 90% of eligible residents of care homes for the elderly.
“But that still leaves nearly two million people, a population roughly twice the size of Birmingham, that we still hope to reach.
“Now is the moment to do it.”
Once the top four groups are vaccinated, the Government hopes that all over-50s and younger people with medical conditions will be vaccinated by the end of April.
Meanwhile Health Secretary Matt Hancock has come under fierce criticism from a senior Tory who said plans to impose 10-year prison sentences on travellers who try to evade coronavirus quarantine rules are “utterly ridiculous”.
Sir Charles Walker, the vice chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, told Mr Johnson to rein in Cabinet ministers “very, very quickly”, as he also accused the Government of “robbing people of hope”.
He told Sky News: “Are we really going to lock people up for 10 years for being dishonest about the fact that they’ve been to Portugal?
“What a stupid thing to say, I mean a really stupid thing to say, that demeans his office and his position around the Cabinet table.”
Mr Hancock announced on Tuesday that people returning to England from 33 “red list” destinations would have to pay £1,750 to quarantine for 10 days in Government-designated hotels.
Those caught lying about their movements could be fined £10,000 or jailed for 10 years under existing anti-forgery legislation.
In a further sign of Tory unrest, 24 Tory MPs rebelled to oppose regulations which increased fines for people caught at house parties and allowed police extra powers to access Test and Trace data.
– A further 1,001 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the official UK death toll to 114,851.
– Foreign holidays will remain banned until “everybody” has had a coronavirus vaccine, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said as he warned it was “too soon” for people to think about booking a summer vacation.
– The Prime Minister said the nation is going “to have to get used to” being revaccinated in the autumn as fresh variants emerge, much like the need for annual boosters against seasonal flu.
– The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef urged wealthy countries to avoid “self-defeating” vaccine strategies.
– Scientists advising the WHO have recommended the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in all adults.
– Using dexamethasone to treat Covid-19 patients could have saved 650,000 lives worldwide, including 12,000 Britons, an Oxford University study suggested.