Two-fifths of UK adults have received first vaccine dose, Health Secretary confirms

5 March 2021, 17:51 | Updated: 5 March 2021, 18:55

By Maddie Goodfellow

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that two-fifths of the UK adult population have now received their first dose of the vaccine and said "coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and deaths are all continuing to fall".

Mr Hancock told a Downing Street news briefing that the fall in the number of deaths was accelerating - down 41% on the previous week - suggesting the vaccination programme was working.

He also said that two-fifths of the adult population of the UK have now received their first dose of the vaccine.

"What this all shows is that the link from cases to hospitalisations and then to deaths that had been unbreakable before the vaccine - that link is now breaking," he said.

"The vaccine is protecting the NHS, saving lives right across the country. The country's plan is working."

As of Friday, a total of 21,358,815 people have now received the first dose of a vaccine.

And a total of 1,034,068 second doses had been given, according to the latest figures from health agencies in the four nations.

Public Health England said a further 236 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday.

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It comes amid the news that the UK's coronavirus R number has risen slightly to between 0.7 and 0.9, despite the country recording its lowest infection numbers since October.

Figures released on Friday by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) show the rate has risen from the 0.6-0.9 estimate that had been recorded for the past two weeks.

Britain's previous R number was at its lowest level since July 2020.

The reproduction number is below 1 in all NHS regions of England, although in the North East and Yorkshire it has an upper bound of 1.

R represents the average number of people each person with coronavirus is expected to go on to infect. When it is higher than 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially, but when it is lower, it means the epidemic is shrinking.

The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) said: "Although the epidemic continues to decrease nationally, there may be more variation in transmission locally, with some indications that the rate of decline in infections could be slowing in some areas."

An R number between 0.7 and 0.9 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will pass the virus on to between seven and nine other individuals.

However, the number of people with Covid-19 in homes across England has continued to fall, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Around one in 220 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between 21 and 27 February.

This is the equivalent of 248,100 people, down from around one in 145, or 373,700 people, for the period of 13 to 19 February.It is the lowest figure since the week to 1 October when it was one in 240.

And the number of people infected in England is still high when compared to last summer. In the week to 25 August, around one in 2,000 people had coronavirus.