'Cautious approach' essential to lockdown easing - Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing on coronavirus (COVID-19) in Downing Street, London.

Health secretary Matt Hancock - Credit: PA Photo/PA Wire

Matt Hancock has insisted the Government must take a "cautious" approach to easing lockdown restrictions despite an accelerated target to offer coronavirus vaccines to all adults by the end of July.

The health secretary said there are still almost 20,000 people in hospital with Covid-19 and that - despite the jabs rollout going "very well" - time must be taken to "get this right".

Prime minister Boris Johnson has set a new target to vaccinate all adults aged over 50 - as well as those with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk - by April 15.

By July 31, the Government hopes to have offered all adults in the UK a jab - though the order of priority for those under 50 has yet to be outlined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Downing Street said the JCVI will publish its priority list for the second phase of the vaccine programme in due course.

Despite calls for teachers and other key workers to be prioritised for jabs, Mr Hancock said on Sunday teachers would not be focussed upon as "there isn't strong evidence that teachers are more likely to catch Covid than any other group".

The quicker rollout will add to pressure on Mr Johnson to relax lockdown measures sooner as he prepares to unveil his road map for easing restrictions on Monday.

Mr Hancock told Sky News that while "all of us understandably want to get back to normal", it is "right to be cautious - it is incredibly important".

"The vaccination programme, whilst clearly going very well, will take time to be able to reach all people who have significant vulnerability, especially because we need to get the second jab to everybody.

"We've got time that needs to be taken to get this right. The prime minister will set out the road map tomorrow and he will set out the full details - taking into account that we need to take a cautious but irreversible approach, that's the goal."

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The prime minister will chair a meeting of senior ministers on Sunday, known as the "Covid S" committee, to finalise his road map before it is signed off by the Cabinet on Monday.

He will then unveil the plans to MPs in the Commons later that afternoon and is expected to lead a Downing Street press conference on Monday evening.

• To stay up to date with all the latest news around Covid-19, keep tabs on our coronavirus topic page.

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