The “unbreakable link” between COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations, and deaths is being broken by the vaccination programme, the health secretary has said.
Cases have fallen by 34% in the last seven days and the 29% fall in hospital admissions over the same period is the fastest decrease at any point in the pandemic, the latest government data shows.
Deaths have also fallen by 41% in the last week.
Matt Hancock said: “What this all shows is that the link from cases to hospitalisations then to deaths that had been unbreakable before the vaccine, that link is now breaking.”
Mr Hancock also said more than 21.3 million people – two-fifths of the UK adult population – have received their first dose of the vaccine and just over one million people – around 2% of UK adults – have received both doses.
The seven-day rolling average of daily second doses stood at 4,253 on 15 February, but had jumped to 27,356 by 28 February.
Mr Hancock said: “As anybody who has been to a vaccination centre will know, the joy on people’s faces as they get the jab is uplifting, and more and more people will be getting this feeling of protection over the coming weeks and months.”
The UK is still on track to offer a first vaccination to everyone at risk by 15 April and all adults by the end of July, he added.
“Things are moving in the right direction.
“These are challenging times but thanks to the vaccine, we’re making progress.
“We’re not there yet, so as we go down the road to recovery, it’s vital everybody still plays their part, follows the rules and, of course, when the call comes, get your jab.”
A further 236 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 as of Friday, according to government figures.
However, the number of new cases has not yet been published due to a “delay in the submission of cases data for England to PHE”, according to a message on the government’s dashboard.
Also on Friday, a sixth person in the UK who tested positive for a Brazilian coronavirus “variant of concern” was found.
The COVID-19 variant, first seen in the city of Manaus, is thought to spread more rapidly than the original virus and to be more capable of evading existing vaccines.
In total, six cases of the P1 coronavirus variant have been confirmed – three in England and three in Scotland.
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