RISING Covid cases will only become a problem if people start dying, a top government scientist has said – raising hopes that restrictions could end on June 21.
Dr Jenny Harries, head of the new UK Health Security Agency, said vaccines are preventing vulnerable people from getting sick, which could mean infections do not become deaths.
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Yesterday, a further 7,393 cases of the virus were recorded in the UK, meaning there have been more than 44,000 in the last week – a 63 per cent increase over the week before.
However, only seven more deaths were reported – an increase of just 1.9 per cent.
Dr Harries said: “As a country, we are progressing not quite in the right direction, but I think it’s really important to keep focused on the data.
“This really is a knife-edge decision because cases are rising, and I think that’s becoming clearer that we will see a further rise. But one of the critical things is understanding the vaccine effectiveness.
“It’s very clear if you look at the data, the 60-plus age group are generally just not getting ill. These are the doubly-vaccinated individuals with high vaccine uptake.
“They are appearing in hospital, but usually only the unvaccinated ones, or those who’ve had just a single dose.”
She added it can take two weeks for a stark rise in infections to become a spiralling death toll – so next week’s data will be key when deciding whether to unlock on June 21.
Meanwhile, the NHS is helping communities double down on the vaccine blitz with a £20million fund to support GPs, pharmacists and local services.
The money can be used to increase staffing and vaccine uptake.
NHS England medical director Dr Nikki Kanani said: “Our local GP and pharmacy sites have been an integral part of the vaccination programme, delivering around 75 per cent of the jabs administered so far, and we are incredibly thankful for them going above and beyond to keep our families and communities protected from Covid.”
Around six in seven people in England aged 50 and over are now fully vaccinated against Covid.
An estimated 85.8 per cent of people in this age group had received two doses of a vaccine by June 6.
More than a third (35.5 per cent) of people aged 40 to 49 have also had both doses, along with nearly a quarter (22.6 per cent) of those 30 to 39.
The highest estimated proportion of people aged 50 and over to be fully vaccinated is in Stratford-upon-Avon (96 per cent).
The lowest proportion is in Westminster (59.3 per cent), the City of London (60.6 per cent) and East London’s Tower Hamlets (62.2 per cent).