Sajid Javid pledges to meet July 19th lockdown goals
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In his first Commons statement in the job, the new Health Secretary confirmed that July 19 will be the “end of the line” for lockdown. He pledged to “keep our resolve and keep on our road map to freedom”. But he warned that the country will have to “learn to live” with Covid. His promise came after new figures estimated that the UK’s Covid vaccines have prevented an estimated 7.2 million infections and 27,000 deaths in England alone.
Two thirds of all adults in the UK will have received two vaccine doses by July 19, the Health Secretary said.
He told MPs: “Two doses of the vaccine are just as effective against hospital admission with the Delta variant compared to the Alpha variant.
“While cases now are ticking up, the number of deaths remains mercifully low.”
Mr Javid took over as Health Secretary on Saturday after his predecessor Matt Hancock quit after breaching Covid rules by embracing and kissing an aide.
Yesterday he agreed with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to rule out any chance of an early lifting of the final lockdown next Monday.
It was an option that had been floated when the timescale – originally planned for June 21 – was extended last month in response to the Delta surge.
Instead, ministers backed sticking with the July 19 “terminus date” proposed last month.
Announcing the decision to MPs last night, Mr Javid said: “We know that people and businesses need certainty, so we want every step to be irreversible.
“And make no mistake, the restrictions on our freedom, they must come to an end.
“We owe it to the British people, who have sacrificed so much, to restore their freedoms as quickly as we possibly can and not to wait a moment longer than we need to.
“With the numbers heading in the right direction – all while we protect more and more people each day – July 19 remains our target date.
“The Prime Minister has called it our terminus date. For me, July 19 is not only the end of the line, but the start of an exciting new journey for our country.
“At this crucial moment in the fightback against this pandemic, we must keep our resolve and keep on our road map to freedom so that together we can beat this pandemic and build back better.”
He added: “We see no reason to go beyond July 19, because, in truth, no date we choose comes with zero risk for Covid.
“We know we cannot simply eliminate it, we have to learn to live with it.”
Data showed 22,868 new infection cases were recorded yesterday, the highest figure since January 30, but the death toll remained low with just three more fatalities.
Earlier yesterday, the Prime Minister said the sticking to the July 19 target date was “sensible”. He urged: “What I’m saying to people is, it’s just another few more weeks to get those jabs in.”
Mr Javid, who yesterday made a trip to St Thomas’ Hospital in London his first official visit, had earlier been buoyed by the latest modelling analysis from Public Health England (PHE) and Cambridge University’s MRC Biostatistics Unit.
That showed the Covid vaccine programme had far prevented an estimated 7.2 million infections and 27,000 deaths in England.
Dr Mary Ramsay, PHE Head of Immunisation, said: “As well as preventing the deaths of tens of thousands from Covid-19, for the first time we can now appreciate the huge impact that the vaccines have had on stopping people getting infected, and therefore passing the virus on to others.”
Dr Paul Birrell, senior research associate at the MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge, and Senior Principal Modeller at PHE, described the figures as “astounding”.
He said: “This analysis highlights how the programme has given us a path back towards a normal life that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible.
“This is why it’s so important that we all get two doses of the vaccine as soon as we can.”
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