Coronavirus vaccines have prevented around 60,000 deaths and 22 million cases in England, Britain's deputy chief medical officer has said. Jonathan Van-Tam said the figures from Public Health England (PHE) showed the vaccine programme had been a "truly massive" success.
However, he dismissed a claim made by an unnamed minister this week that the pandemic was “all over bar the shouting” following a recent sustained fall in daily case numbers.
“I wish it were so. This is not ‘all over bar the shouting’. I hope the worst is behind us, but I think it’s quite possible that we’re going to have one or two bumpy periods in the autumn and in the winter, not only through Covid, but also through flu and other respiratory viruses as well,” he told the BBC.
The figure of 60,000 lives saved is based on modelling that compared the number of infections since the start of this year to the infection rate during 2020. PHE said the vaccines had also prevented more than 52,600 hospital admissions.
Britain recorded 31,117 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the second daily rise in case numbers after almost a week when the daily number fell. Thursday’s number is still below that of a week ago when it was 39,906, but there were 85 further deaths and total deaths over the week are up almost 29 per cent on the previous week.
The latest figures came as Boris Johnson’s government stepped up its effort to encourage more young people to get vaccinated, warning that students would need to be fully vaccinated if they wanted to return to halls of residence in the autumn.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the government would use "a little bit of coaxing and cajoling" to encourage vaccine take-up, but warned of further measures if case numbers rise in September.
“The only steps that we will take are ones that will maximise the freedom that the vast majority of the country want and are hankering to enjoy,” he told the BBC. “We’ve got to think of it with that in mind, the overwhelming good of the country, and encourage people to close that margin.”
The Liberal Democrats accused the government of introducing vaccine passport by stealth after the NHS app that shows people's vaccine status for international travel introduced a "domestic use" section for use at venues seeking coronavirus certification.
"This deceitful move is deeply shameful. We now have a new ID card snuck onto our phones without even as much as a whisper from the government," the party's home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said.
"At least when Tony Blair tried to introduce ID cards he put a bill to parliament. This lot won't even open up parliament to debate it. They must recall parliament now if they are serious about this."