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Covid-19: Job not done despite vaccination success, scientist warns

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Twickenham Stadium was turned into a vaccine walk-in centre on Monday, including for over-18s

The success of the UK’s vaccination programme does not mean that the battle with Covid is over, a scientist advising the government has said.

Prof Adam Finn said the country remained vulnerable as there were still large numbers of unvaccinated people.

More than 25 million people in the UK have had two doses of a vaccine – just under half of the adult population.

But there have been calls to delay ending Covid restrictions in England on 21 June amid warnings of a third wave.

The UK has seen a small rise in cases recently linked to the spread of the more transmissible variant first identified in India.

On Monday, the UK reported more than 3,000 new Covid infections for the sixth day in a row.

Prof Finn, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation which advises the government on vaccine priority, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the UK needed to achieve a high coverage of immunity across the population, not just among certain groups.

“The idea that somehow the job is done is wrong – we’ve still got a lot of people out there who have neither had this virus infection nor yet been immunised and that’s why we’re in a vulnerable position right now,” he said.

He said the message needed to be broadcast that “we’re all in this together – everyone needs to do this (get vaccinated) for everyone”.

Prof Finn joined other government scientific advisers in urging caution over relaxing the coronavirus restrictions too soon, saying it was “so much better to delay slightly than to go around with another cycle” of lockdown restrictions.

He said the new variant first identified in India looked to be more infectious and it was something “we need to take seriously”.

“It’s a different virus, it could be a real problem and it’s only by taking it seriously now that we can get where we want to be as soon as possible,” he said.

BBC graph showing the number of people who have been vaccinated

The last stage of the government’s roadmap in England for lifting lockdown, which would remove all limits on how many people you can meet, is due no earlier than 21 June.

A final decision on whether restrictions will be lifted will be reached on 14 June.

Prof Sir Mark Walport, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the situation was “very delicately balanced”.

He told BBC Breakfast that more data was needed over the next two weeks to help the prime minister “make the difficult decision”.

He said the data on hospital admissions and case numbers would be key to determining whether to lift restrictions.

Asked whether the UK was entering a third wave of the virus, he said he hoped it wasn’t “but it’s not impossible”.

Graph showing the number of patients in hospital is falling

Business leaders have repeatedly warned that any change to the proposed dates would have a devastating impact on those sectors not yet able to fully reopen – or open at all.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said on Monday that some businesses were “haemorrhaging cash” and a delay would “push them closer to the cliff edge of business failure”.

The timetable for relaxing Covid measures varies across the UK.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will confirm later whether the next stage of Scotland’s lockdown easing can go ahead next week.

In Wales, there is due to be a review on 3 June. In Northern Ireland, some measures were relaxed on 24 May – the next review is due on 10 June.

People queued up outside London's Twickenham rugby stadium for a Covid vaccine
Image Caption: Young people queued up outside London’s Twickenham rugby stadium for a Covid vaccine

On Monday, thousands of people received jabs at Twickenham Stadium as part of the NHS’ drive to target areas hardest hit by the Indian variant.

Hounslow’s director of public health Kelly O’Neill told the BBC more than 11,000 people were vaccinated at the stadium – with organisers later opening up jabs to anyone aged over 18 as they did not want supplies to be wasted.

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