England’s deputy chief medical officer has suggested “we are at or close to the bottom” of levels of coronavirus cases in the UK.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the numbers of people testing positive for Covid-19 were “in very low levels” as they averaged at 2,000 a day.
He said the numbers are similar to those seen in September last year, while hospital numbers are also expected to drop further thanks to the roll out of vaccines.
While a third wave maybe be just an “upsurge” thanks to the immunisation programme reducing its severity.
He nonetheless warned it would be “inconceivable” to think there will be no further bumps on the road.
England’s chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said we are close to ‘bottom of levels’ of coronavirus
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It comes as it was announced an extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus jab have been secured for a booster vaccination programme in the autumn.
Speaking at a Downing Street press briefing on Wednesday, Prof Van-Tam said: “We are really in very low levels that are comparable to where we were in September last year.
“We are running as a typical seven-day average at just over 2,000 people testing positive per day.
Mr Van-Tam spoke beside the health secretary as he said a third wave may be just an ‘upsurge’
Matt Hancock emphasised the importance of ‘protecting the progress that we have made’
“My sense is that probably we are at or close to the bottom at the moment in terms of this level of disease in the UK.”
Presenting data during the briefing, Prof Van-Tam added: “Most of the steady decline we have seen, the disappearance of our third wave, has been down to the efforts of the British people in following lockdown.
“The vaccine has undoubtedly helped in the later stages and there is good evidence that the death rate in the elderly has dropped faster than it has in the younger age groups and it has dropped faster than it did in the second wave, and that is undoubtedly a vaccine effect.
The health secretary is due to get his jab on Thursday as people over 42 were called in for the vaccine
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“What is important about these vaccines and the vaccine rollout is it really is the way out of getting into trouble of the same size and magnitude ever again, and that’s why it’s important that this job must get finished.”
Professor Van-Tam also said he thought that two people who had had both vaccine doses, with the second jab at least 14 days ago, would be “incredibly safe” if they met up.
But he advised people to continue to stick to lockdown rules, saying he hoped it could happen “soon but not quite now”.
Matt Hancock emphasised the importance of “protecting the progress that we have made” in the pandemic and said the extra doses would be used alongside other approved vaccines as part of a programme in the autumn.
The Health Secretary told the press conference: “That is all about protecting the progress that we have made.
“We have a clear route out of this crisis but this is no time for complacency, it’s a time for caution – so we can keep the virus under control while we take steps back to normal life.”
Mr Hancock will be among those getting their coronavirus vaccine on Thursday, after people aged 42 and over in England were called to come forward and book their jab.
The Health Secretary said that England was on track to release further restrictions next month, which includes allowing some indoor mixing between households and the reopening of indoor hospitality.
“The good news is that as far as the next step is concerned, which is in a few weeks’ time – and we’re going to keep monitoring the data – but as of today, we are on track for step three on May 17 and that is good news,” he said.