Professor Andrew Hayward, a SAGE adviser, warned major cities could become Covid ‘pockets’ due to lower jab uptake rates
Professor Andrew Hayward, who sits on a committee that advises No10’s SAGE panel, said lower jab uptake rates could turn the bustling hubs into coronavirus ‘pockets’ later this year.
Professor Hayward told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that more than three million over-55s are yet to get their first dose, including half a million over-65s.
He warned this was limiting Number 10’s ‘leeway’ to relax curbs, saying ‘there’s a lot of people who could still get very ill’ if cases began to rise again.
As many as 17 of the 21 local authorities with the worst uptake rates in England are in the capital. NHS data shows they have inoculated fewer than 70 per cent of over-55s.
For comparison, some rural parts of the country have already hit 90 per cent.
Studies have shown vaccines currently being deployed in Britain drastically cut the risk of catching Covid, getting hospitalised and dying.
Boris Johnson has put a successful vaccination roll-out at the heart of his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, with jabs prioritised for older people who are more at risk of death or serious illness from the disease.
But the Prime Minister has also refused to rule out tightening the rules in areas with spiralling infections.
NHS England figures show 79 per cent of over-55s in the country had at least one dose of the vaccine by March 14, but London is significantly lagging behind in uptake
BORIS JOHNSON URGED TO LIFT COVID LOCKDOWN A MONTH EARLIER
Britain risks ‘squandering the advantages of our vaccination programme’ by moving too slowly to lift the lockdown, Conservative MPs warned yesterday.
Amid signs of a gathering rebellion, a string of MPs said they were ready to vote against the Government this week when it seeks to extend Covid laws to the end of September.
The NHS yesterday revealed a third consecutive record day of vaccinations with 844,285 on Saturday.
A higher daily total of 873,784 was initially reported by the Prime Minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who later clarified that figures from Scotland had ‘been revised down slightly’.
NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens said it equated to vaccinating ‘the entire adult populations of Liverpool, Southampton and Oxford combined’ in a single day.
In the hour between 11am and noon on Saturday, a record 27 people per second were vaccinated.
The Institute of Economic Affairs yesterday said the success of the programme meant there was now ‘a strong case’ for bringing forward Boris Johnson’s road map dates by four weeks.
Professor Hayward said: ‘We are keeping an eye on cases but we’re also being particularly careful to see how those are translating into hospitalisations and deaths.’
Vaccine uptake rates are often lower in major cities, which experts say is linked to higher levels of deprivation and larger black, Asian and minority ethnic communities (BAME) which traditionally are more sceptic of vaccines.
The NHS has launched a ‘blueprint’ for tackling this, which involves doctors and nurses speaking to concerned residents alongside community leaders.
Vaccination clinics have also been set up in religious buildings and community centres to encourage everyone to get their first and second dose.
Professor Hayward also said today a ‘traffic light system’ could be used to allow Britons to go abroad over the summer holidays.
Professor Hayward told Radio 4: ‘I suspect what we may end up with is some sort of traffic light system with some countries that are no-go areas, for example likely to be South Africa and South America.
‘Other areas where there will be more severe restrictions, there will be some combination of vaccine certificates, testing and maybe quarantine, and maybe there will be some low-risk countries that you can go.’
Ministers have urged Britons to ‘hold off’ on booking a foreign trip this year, saying it would be ‘premature’ and ‘potentially risky’.
The Government will then determine when international travel should resume but it will be ‘no earlier than 17 May’.
A spike in coronavirus cases in some European countries and the spread of variants of the disease have sparked fears of the May 17 date being pushed back and Ms Whately today refused to be drawn on the issue.
Care Minister Helen Whately said it ‘feels premature’ to book an international holiday now before a Government taskforce reports with a timeline for resuming travel
Ms Whately told BBC Breakfast: ‘I know everybody feels like it is time for a holiday, we all need that.
‘It just so happens that when I was on holiday last August, I in fact booked my next holiday, which is a UK holiday, for later on in the summer.
‘But my advice would be to anybody right now just to hold off on booking international travel.
‘The Prime Minister launched a taskforce looking specifically at international travel that will be reporting back shortly and it just feels premature to be booking international holidays at the moment.’
Asked whether the roadmap target of foreign travel possibly starting up on May 17 was likely to be pushed back, Ms Whately added: ‘I don’t think it is helpful for me to say one way or the other.
‘What I would counsel is caution at the moment for people to hold off on booking because, as anybody can see, we are in a situation where there are rising rates in many countries in Europe and we know that also something that comes with rising rates is increased rates of variants, which is why it is so important that we are going to be able to test more rapidly for variants of concerns, as I have outlined.’
Many Tory MPs believe the success of the UK’s vaccination drive should allow Brits to take holidays abroad in the not too distant future.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, told The Times: ‘The huge success of Britain’s vaccination programme, together with the steps taken by the travel industry, mean that British people should be able to look forward to holidays abroad this summer.
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