Britain suffers 85 more coronavirus hospital deaths after vaccine drive reached 50% milestone

  • Figures include 71 in England, six in Wales and eight hospital deaths in Scotland
  • It is the lowest national tally on a Saturday since October 5 last year
  • Britain today celebrates vaccinating half the adult population against covid 

Britain has suffered 85 more coronavirus hospital deaths as the country celebrated 50 per cent of the population’s vaccination.

It includes 71 in England, six in Wales and eight in Scotland, while Northern Ireland faced no hospital deaths this week.

The figure is the lowest national tally on a Saturday since October 5, stoking hope the country could be overcoming the virus.

Meanwhile, Britain today passed a huge milestone in its fight against the coronavirus as the number of adults to have been given a vaccine passed the halfway point – a day after the country recorded a record number of daily jabs.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed the ‘national success story’ and reiterated that it was ‘our way out of this pandemic’.

Government data up to March 18 shows 49.9 per cent of adults had a first dose of the vaccine, with an estimated 73,000 more jabs needed to pass the halfway mark. Those figures are expected to be updated later today.

Yesterday the vaccine drive hit a record high after 660,276 doses were dished out across the country in the previous 24 hours.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured yesterday) hailed the ‘national success story’ and reiterated that it was ‘our way out of this pandemic’

It comes as a top British scientist who is leading Covid-19 vaccine research warned the Government faces a ‘challenge’ to deliver all second jabs within 12 weeks due to supply issues.

Meanwhile Ursula von der Leyen threatened to halt exports of AstraZeneca vaccines if the EU does not receive its deliveries first, in a worsening row over delayed shipments that has caused international tensions.

And a government scientist warned foreign trips are ‘extremely unlikely’ for Britons this summer as Europe struggles to control a surge in coronavirus cases.  

Mr Hancock said today: ‘I’m absolutely delighted to tell you that we have now vaccinated half of all adults in the united kingdom.

‘It’s a huge success and I want to say many, many thanks to all those involved, including the half of all adults who have come forward.’

Some 26.2million Britons have now received their first dose, the equivalent of half the adult population in Britain, and 2m have received both injections

He added: ‘The UK vaccination programme is a big success story. It’s down to the hard work of many, many people.’

The vaccine programme had been steadily gaining pace this week, after 529,119 total doses were given out on Tuesday and 581,855 on Wednesday.

Some 26.2million Britons have now received their first dose, the equivalent of half the adult population in Britain, and  two million have received both injections.

Despite the promising week, the NHS is gearing up for a significant shortage of vaccine doses next month due to supply issues in India.

A shipment of five million Oxford shots has been delayed, for reasons have not been made clear, with No10 holding talks with New Delhi to get the roll-out back on track.

It means Britons over 40 who were expecting to be called for their appointments next month will need to wait until at least May. 

Ministers are instead prioritising current stock for over-50s and for people due their second doses.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome, welcomed the vaccine milestone.

He said: ‘To have vaccinated half of the UK’s adult population in under 3 months is remarkable. Soon we’ll have covered 99 per cent of those at high risk of dying from Covid-19. The UK should be proud of this achievement and the scientists, healthcare workers and volunteers who got us here.

‘But we need to start thinking beyond our borders. The UK has access to 100 million surplus vaccine doses. Almost enough to vaccinate every citizen twice. These doses won’t be of use in the UK. It’s time we begin sharing doses with those most in need globally.

‘This is more than a question of ethics – it is a scientific and economic imperative. If left to spread unchecked in large parts of the world, the virus risks mutating to an extent where our vaccines and treatments no longer work – leaving us all exposed. 

‘Science has given us the exit strategy, but it will only work if its benefits can reach the maximum number of people around the world.

‘It is not enough to champion the importance of equitable access – we urgently need confirmed timetables for sharing doses through Covax. The UK should lead the way on this.’ 

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