The UK is “nearly on the home straight” according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock as 324,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered in the space of 24 hours.
More than 3.5 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a vaccine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, as he hailed those helping the “fantastic national effort”.
Two vaccines have been rolled out in the UK, with a third – developed by Moderna – also approved for use.
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Mr Hancock, writing in the Sunday Express, said: “We can see the way out of this pandemic. We are nearly on the home straight.
“After months of detailed preparations, rigorous scientific scrutiny and an extraordinary amount of patience, we are rolling out two highly effective vaccines, with a third coming in spring and others progressing through clinical trials.
We’ve given over 3.5 million vaccine doses to protect against COVID-19, with over 324,000 doses yesterday alone.
Thank you to everyone who is helping in this fantastic national effort. Help our NHS by staying at home to save lives. pic.twitter.com/k35anabiEE
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 16, 2021
“We’re rolling it out to as many vulnerable people as possible and we expect tens of millions of people to be vaccinated by the spring.”
Ministers are urging the public to “play their part” in supporting the vaccination programme, such as by helping the elderly attend their appointments.
Hancock said people should also sign up to clinical trials for vaccines and treatments, and stay informed with accurate and trusted NHS advice.
He urged the public to commit to “three pledges” to support the rollout, saying: “Everyone has a part to play in this national effort – to protect our NHS, our loved ones and other people’s loved ones too.”
His plea came as another 1,295 deaths in the UK were reported on Saturday, the third-highest daily total since the pandemic began, but the lowest number of lab-confirmed cases this year was reported – 41,346.
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The figures will be seen as a sign that infections may be levelling off or falling as a result of the lockdown measures, though scientists believe the peak in deaths will come later.
Dominic Raab appearing on Sky News said people should not go on holiday as he warned that the NHS is “on the cusp”.
“I think right now people should be staying at home unless it is absolutely necessary, so, no, they shouldn’t be going on holiday – I don’t think that is appropriate,” he told Sky.
“Any travel, domestic or otherwise, ought to be for the limited exceptions that have been spelt out.
“We’ve got this narrow period where the NHS is on the cusp, we’ve got to protect it and we’ve got the light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine rollout.
“We’ve just got to stay at home as much as possible unless there are really strong, limited exceptional reasons for travelling domestically or internationally, and that’s the way we get through to a better place.”