BRITAIN has hit the “bottom” level of the Covid pandemic and is now registering just 2,000 cases a day, Jonathan Van Tam has declared.
The deputy chief medical officer made the remarks after official figures showed one in four UK adults are now fully vaccinated.
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He told a No 10 press conference: “We’re running as a typical seven day average, just over 2000 people testing positive per day.
“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.”
The top scientist said the UK is also “close to the bottom” of the pandemic in terms of the number of people in hospital with Covid.
He added: “But probably we will find this a little further to run in terms of reductions in the total number of people in hospital in the UK with Covid.”
Prof Van Tam said there would be “twists and turns ahead” in Britain’s battle against the virus and keeping up the pace of vaccinations is key.
He said: “We are moving at pace and I think we’re essentially following a good dry line now.
“But I don’t want us to run into any wet patches, that is going to be really critical in the next few weeks.
“There are going to be good pressures on R and bad pressures on R in the next few weeks.
“With the 17th of May planned easements and the 21st of June planned easements, these will have a propensity as we mix more, and more normally, to increase R.
“At the same time we hope that the continued vaccine rollout if it continues as well as it has started will put the downward pressure on R.
“Those are the competing forces in play in the next few weeks.”
He added: “I can’t emphasise how important the vaccine programme continues to be.
“We are now down to 42-year-olds but we need to go much further down and continue that high uptake to put us in a really sustainable safe place.”
At the same press conference Matt Hancock said seven in 10 British adults now have protective antibodies.
The health secretary said this was a “measure of the protection that we have collectively built up right across the country”.
He said: “In the older age groups, those who got vaccinated first are much more likely to have Covid-19 antibodies.
“Now seven in 10 adults have protective Covid-19 antibodies, this is the vaccination programme in action.”
He referred to data released by the Office for National Statistics, which visited more than 20,000 people to measure antibodies in their blood.
But he also warned the crisis in India shows that Britain needs to remain vigilant in the battle against the disease.
And Mr Hancock today announced the UK has secured an extra 60m doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
The purchase comes as the government prepares to dole out booster jabs to the vulnerable to prevent a third wave.
Boris Johnson has already warned of a resurgence and experts said extra vaccines for the elderly could be available in the UK by September.
The vaccine rollout will be extended to under-40s in the next few weeks.
All over-50s will be given a third booster jab against new variants this autumn to prevent a killer winter wave, under plans leaked to HOAR.
The extra 60 million Pfizer doses will add to the UK’s growing armoury of vaccines.
There are now deals in place for 517 million shots of eight different types.
Mr Hancock said: “The vaccine is helping us to bring back our freedom and we must protect that programme.
“So we are working on our plans for booster shots too. To keep us safe and free here, while we get this disease under control across the whole world, we have been working on a programme of booster shots for over a year now.
“I’m delighted to tell you we’ve been able to secure an extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.”
Britain smashed through the quarter-way mark in fully vaccinating adults after a record number of second doses were dished out in a week.
It means a one in four have had both jabs – a total of 13,201,811 people.
The success of the vaccine rollout means it is the equivalent of 25.1 per cent of the adult population being protected against severe illness or death.
Wales is estimated to have given two doses to 27.8 per cent of adults, ahead of England (24.9 per cent), Scotland (24.9 per cent) and Northern Ireland (24.5 per cent).
The figures are for vaccinations reported by the UK’s health agencies up to and including April 26.
It reflects the speedy pace at which the administering of second doses has been ramped up across the country during the past month.
Just under 2.8 million second doses were recorded in the week to April 26 – the highest number for any seven-day period so far – with nearly 8.7 million since April 1.
This compares with just under 3.7 million second doses in March and just 321,607 in February.
Second doses of Covid-19 vaccines must follow within 12 weeks of the first, meaning the millions of people who received their initial jab in February have recently had a follow-up dose, or are due to get the jab shortly.
People aged 80 and over were among the first groups on the priority list for vaccines, with initial doses offered from early December.
It comes as millions more people are eligible to get their Covid jabs.