PM refuses to rule out another lockdown in future
- Credit: PA
Boris Johnson has pledged a "cautious but irreversible" approach to easing lockdown with more groups to be vaccinated and over-50s offered jabs by April.
The prime minister said there were still more hospital patients with Covid-19 than at the peak of the first wave and admissions were running at 1,600 a day across the UK.
He told a Downing Street press conference: "We have to keep our foot to the floor."
The next million letters are set to be sent offering appointments for a vaccine to the over-65s and those aged 16-64 with underlying conditions, as well as adult carers.
He said: "If we can keep this pace up and if we can keep supply steady - and I hope and believe we can - then we hope to offer a vaccination to everyone in the first nine priority groups, including everyone over 50, by the end of April."
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Head of NHS England Simon Stevens said between now and the end of April, those who have been invited for their first dose but haven’t come forward can still do so by getting in touch with their GP.
People will also get their second booster doses, beginning early-mid March, 12 weeks on from the first dose, at the same place you had the first dose, he added.
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The vaccine is being extended to those with diabetes, heart problems, learning difficulties and mental illness.
Asking about the easing lockdown, the PM called for people to be "optimistic but also patient" about the situation but refused to rule out this being the last lockdown.
He said next week's "road map" would set out "as much as we possibly can about the route to normality, even though some things are very uncertain".
"We want this lockdown to be the last. And we want progress to be cautious but also irreversible,” he added.
While March 8 has been earmarked for schools to start reopening, he said no decisions had been made on whether all pupils will return at the same time.
He said a cautious approach came amid an increased chance of new and concerning variants emerging if infections remain high.
Latest figures show a further 230 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total to 117,396.
Public Health England figures show there were 1,959 Covid patients in this region’s hospitals, down 28pc from last week.