Covid-19: UK set to hit vaccine milestone one day after zero deaths reported

2 June 2021, 06:27 | Updated: 2 June 2021, 06:28

A long queue forms outside the COVID-19 vaccination centre at St Thomas' Hospital in London
A long queue forms outside the COVID-19 vaccination centre at St Thomas' Hospital in London. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The UK is on the brink of reaching the milestone of three-quarters of adults receiving their first Covid-19 vaccine, after zero daily deaths were reported for the first time yesterday.

No deaths were reported within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 were reported for the first time since last year.

Latest Government data suggests that so far, more than 39.4 million people had received their first dose - equating to 74.9% of adults.

In a speech on Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock will praise the central role of the NHS in the vaccine rollout and say the Government "backed lots of horses", investing "at risk" in different projects.

READ MORE: UK records zero daily Covid-19 deaths for first time since start of pandemic

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Mr Hancock will speak at the Jenner Institute in Oxford ahead of the UK-hosted G7 Health Ministers' meeting later this week.

He is expected to say: "Even before the first Covid-19 case arrived in the UK we'd started the work on how to develop, procure and roll out the vaccines that would ultimately make us safe.

"I was told a vaccine had never been developed against any human coronavirus. We dared to believe ... and we started early.

"We put out a call for research in February. By March, we were supporting six different projects, including the Oxford vaccine, alongside the vital work on treatments - including the Recovery trial, which led to the discovery of dexamethasone, the first proven treatment to reduce coronavirus mortality. These two projects, together, have already saved over a million lives."

Mr Hancock will say: "The biggest risk would have been the failure to find a vaccine at all. So we explicitly embraced risk early on. So we backed lots of horses and invested at risk.

"And instead of sitting back and waiting to see which vaccines came off, we were tenacious in helping them to get over the line, drawing on the abundant industry experience in our team."

The Health Secretary is also expected to outline how the NHS has "deserved every plaudit that has come its way", as well as the country's "scientific strength".

Downing Street has indicated that Boris Johnson still sees nothing in the data to suggest the plan to end all legal lockdown restrictions in England on June 21 will need to be delayed.

Asked about the Prime Minister's plans amid warnings over the spread of the Indian variant, a No 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has said on a number of occasions that we haven't seen anything in the data but we will continue to look at the data, we will continue to look at the latest scientific evidence as we move through June towards June 21."

The latest death tally is likely to feed into ministers' considerations on easing restrictions.

They will also consider that the announcement on zero deaths comes after a bank holiday weekend, so there may be a delay in the reporting of the figures.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pressed pause on plans to ease Covid restrictions in much of the country.

She announced on Tuesday that while parts of the country will move to Level 1 of the Scottish Government's coronavirus restrictions from Saturday, much of the central belt including Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow will be kept in Level 2.

Ms Sturgeon insisted the country was still at a "delicate and fragile point" in the battle with the virus, in an announcement on restrictions which she described as a "mixed bag".

Scotland's clinical director, Jason Leitch warned the Indian variant "is causing us some challenge and is spreading quicker than we hoped".