Boris Johnson: No need to deviate, we’ll stick with our roadmap

Covid variant: Expert on concerns over 'double-mutant' strain

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Vowing to keep to his original plan to deliver our freedom on June 21, the Prime Minister said the Government will continue to “build up defences” against a possible fresh surge of coronavirus. Mr Johnson said restrictions will continue to be eased over the next two months. But his remarks follow warnings from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies that lifting lockdown measures is likely to trigger a further outbreak of infections, despite the rapid vaccine rollout.

During his visit to the AstraZeneca plant in Macclesfield yesterday, the PM said: “At the moment, as I look at all the data, I can’t see any reason for us to deviate from the roadmap that we have set out. We are sticking to it.

“I just think it’s important we take each step on the roadmap as it comes and continue to roll out the vaccine, build up our defences, build up the natural resistance of our whole population in the way that we are and then continue to look at the data in the intervals that we’ve set out.

“So we are going to see exactly what happens from the April 12 to May 17 openings and thereafter through to June 21.”

Mr Johnson has already confirmed April 12 will see the next step of the roadmap, with shops, pub gardens, gyms and hairdressers among premises allowed to reopen.

The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which advises the Government, has produced a paper saying an increase in hospital admissions and fatalities is “highly likely” during the later stages of the roadmap out of lockdown.

The panel’s assessment was that any resurgence in hospital admissions and deaths following Monday’s easing of lockdown was “highly unlikely” to put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

It added: “It is highly likely that there will be a further resurgence in hospitalisations and deaths.”

In most of the scenarios the experts looked at, the peak of a potential new wave would be lower than in January 2021.

Mr Johnson also insisted people should continue to get Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs, despite reports of concerns about rare side-effects.

Regulators in the UK and Europe are examining potential links between the jab and blood clots.

The PM said: “On the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the best thing people should do is look at what the MHRA say, our independent regulator. That’s why we have them, that’s why they are independent.

“Their advice to people is to keep going out there, get your jab, get your second jab.”

Downing Street has insisted all adults will be offered a vaccine by the end of July as planned despite official estimates of supplies being sharply downgraded.

The Cabinet Office has indicated that an average of 2.7 million doses a week will be given in England until the end of July, down from a previous estimate of 3.2 million.

The PM’s official spokesman refused to be drawn on “details around supplies and deliveries” of vaccine doses but said “we remain on track” to meet the targets set for the programme.

Supplies of vaccines in April have been constrained by the need to test a batch of 1.7 million doses and delays in a shipment of around five million from India.

The spokesman said: “The Health Secretary set out a couple of weeks ago the fact that there will be a slight reduction in April. But the key thing to remember is that doesn’t mean that we are not on track to hit our pledges.

“We remain on track to vaccinate all those in phase one by April 15. We remain on track to vaccinate or provide the first dose to all adults by the end of July.”

The rollout will be boosted by the introduction of Moderna jabs later in April to go alongside the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines already being used.

The spokesman added: “We will have three vaccines that we are able to distribute and that will ensure that we can continue to make sure we are giving people their first doses as well as giving more and more people their second doses.”

Some 26.7 million people in England have now had a first dose, the equivalent of 60 percent of the adult population.

This leaves around 17.5 million adults needing their initial jab to meet the end of July target.

The Government said a further 20 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of yesterday.

This brings the overall UK death toll to 126,882.

Government officials also said that, as of 9am on Tuesday, there had been a further 2,379 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

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