Johnson calls for patience around lifting lockdown as over 15m get first vaccine dose

Britain records 9,765 new coronavirus cases, the first time the daily figure has fallen below 10,000 since October

Boris Johnson has called for patience about lifting lockdown as more than 15 million people in Britain, almost one in four of the population, have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and new cases fell to their lowest level since October.

Speaking at a press conference in Downing Street, Mr Johnson said that although the vaccination programme was going well, there was still not enough data about the exact effectiveness of the vaccines in reducing the spread of infection.

“This moment is a huge step forward but it’s only a first step, and while it shows what the country can do we must be both optimistic but also patient.

“And next week I will be setting out a roadmap saying as much as we possibly can about the route to normality even though some things are very uncertain because we want this lockdown to be the last. And we want progress to be cautious but also irreversible.”


The National Health Service (NHS) has already offered a first vaccination dose to everyone over 70, and is now vaccinating all over-65s and people over 16 with specific underlying health conditions.

The target is to give everyone over 50 the first dose of a vaccine by the end of April.

Britain recorded 9,765 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the first time the daily figure has fallen below 10,000 since October 2nd.

A total of 230 deaths were recorded, the lowest figure since December 26th.


Meanwhile, Labour has called on the government to publish all the contracts it agreed for work on the coronavirus pandemic after it emerged that Mr Johnson's former chief-of-staff, Dominic Cummings, was instrumental in hiring a firm run by his friends to conduct focus groups.

During a judicial hearing into a contract brought by the non-profit Good Law Project, Mr Cummings admitted that, contrary to an earlier official denial, he recommended that the work should go to Public First.

“I am a special adviser and as such I am not allowed to direct civil servants. However, as a result of my suggestion I expected people to hire Public First. The nature of my role is that sometimes people take what I say as an instruction and that is a reasonable inference as people assume I am often speaking for the prime minister,” he said in a witness statement.

Public First is run by Mr Cummings's friends James Frayne, who has worked on campaigns with him over two decades, and Rachel Wolf, who co-wrote last year's Conservative party manifesto. The cabinet office last year described as "nonsense" any suggestion that their friendship had anything to do with the decision to award Public First the work without any tendering process.


“The fact that I knew the key Public First people well was a bonus, not a problem, as in such a high-pressure environment trust is very important, as well as technical competence,” Mr Cummings said in his statement.

Labour said the episode was an example of how the government believes “it is one rule for them, another for the rest of us”. It called for urgent action to reform a system of contracting it described as “plagued by cronyism and waste”.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times