England on track to exit lockdown: Hancock

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London, May 24 (IANS) UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he is “increasingly confident” that England is “on track” for the government’s roadmap to exit the coronavirus lockdown, local media reported.

His remarks came after a study by Public Health England (PHE) showed promising results for the two main vaccines being used to fight the pandemic in Britain, reports Xinhua news agency.

“I’m increasingly confident we’re on track for the roadmap because this data shows the vaccine after two doses works just as effectively, and we all know that the vaccine is our way out of this,” Hancock told Sky News on Sunday.

According to the PHE study, which took place between April 5 and May 16, the Pfizer vaccine was 88 per cent effective against symptomatic disease from the India-related variant two weeks after the second dose, compared with 93 per cent effectiveness against the variant identified in Kent.

Meanwhile, the AstraZeneca jab was 60 per cent effective, compared with 66 per cent against the Kent variant over the same period.

However, they were only 33 per cent effective three weeks after the first dose, the PHE report said.

The PHE said it expects to see even higher levels of effectiveness against hospital admissions and deaths.

Hancock described the outcome as “groundbreaking,” adding that “getting the second jab is vital”.

From May 17 as part of the government’s lockdown easing plan, pubs, bars and restaurants in England were permitted to open indoors, while indoor entertainment resumed, including cinemas, museums and children’s play areas.

People were also allowed to travel abroad to a number of green-list countries without having to quarantine upon return as the ban on foreign travel has also been lifted.

The government’s roadmap is expected to see all legal limits on social contact to be removed on June 21.

In a paper published on May 21, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said coronavirus may continue to evolve for years to come and that “eradication is extremely unlikely”.

The experts warn that eventually it is likely “current vaccines will fail to protect against transmission, infection, or even against disease caused by newer variants”.

Nearly 37.7 million people, or more than 70 per cent of adults in Britain, have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures.