Boris Johnson was backed by his chief medical adviser last night in setting an Easter “end goal” for coronavirus restrictions after trials showed that the Oxford vaccine was highly effective.
Chris Whitty agreed that it would be possible to “pull back” from social-distancing rules from the spring, with increasing hope in government that life would return to normal in the summer.
The announcement yesterday by the Oxford University team that their vaccine was up to 90 per cent effective means Britain has bought enough doses of three proven jabs to vaccinate the entire adult population next year. Mr Johnson said that “things really will look and feel very different indeed after Easter”.
The prime minister said that “with a favourable wind” it would be possible to vaccinate “the vast majority of the people who need the most protection by Easter”. He added: “That will make a very substantial change to where we are at the moment.”
He urged people to stick with restrictions through what he acknowledged would be a hard winter, promising that by the spring a combination of vaccines and testing would “make the whole concept of a Covid lockdown redundant”.
A downward trend in cases continued yesterday with 15,450 confirmed, the fewest for six weeks. A further 206 deaths were reported, similar to 213 a week ago, with 1,628 further Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital.
The three vaccines that have reported results have proved far more effective than Professor Whitty had been expecting and he is now more confident that once winter is over, tough restrictions on social life will not be needed.