Covid: PM hails ‘crucial milestone’ as vaccine offered to every care home in England

  • Video report by ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand

Boris Johnson marked a “crucial milestone” in the fight against coronavirus as the NHS confirmed all older residents in England’s eligible care homes have been offered a vaccine.

The PM said the rollout “will only accelerate from here on”, after the daily number of jabs administered in the UK exceeded 500,000 for the first time.

NHS England said figures are expected to show on Monday that people living at more than 10,000 care homes with older residents had been offered their first vaccine doses, meeting the deadline set by the government.

A “small remainder” were said to have had their visits deferred for safety reasons during a local outbreak but these will be visited “as soon as NHS staff are allowed to do so”.

Prime Minister Johnson said "virtually all" elderly care home residents had received their first coronavirus vaccine or been given an appointment for it.

He told reporters: "That's very important for getting the spread of the virus down, getting the serious illness and fatalities down."

Mr Johnson said he was "confident that we have the supplies" to ensure that people would receive their second jab within the government's 12-week timetable.

Ministers are growing increasingly confident of hitting the target of vaccinating the 15 million most vulnerable people by mid-February after a record high of jabs on Saturday.

Official figures showed 598,390 first doses were administered across the UK, bringing the total number of people to have received a dose to 8,977,329.

Based on the latest figures, an average of 401,512 first doses of vaccine would be needed every day for the government’s February 15 target to be met.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that four fifths of over-80s have received their first dose of the vaccine, alongside three quarters of those aged between 75 and 79.

But some care home staff are refusing jabs due to "cultural issues", the National Care Association's executive chairman has said.

Speaking about why some staff have not received the jab, Nadra Ahmed told BBC Breakfast on Monday: "Some of it is to do with access and that is that people are just not able to get to where they needed to go to.

Boris Johnson, who visited vaccination sites in Scotland last week, has hailed the success of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout. Credit: Number 10

"If they've been coming into the care homes, the GPs have not had enough vaccine for the staff as well, they've just got enough for the residents, which is the priority.

"And some of it is to do with cultural issues and some is that people just don't want to have the vaccine.

"We have to convince people that this vaccine is for them. That it's for the staff to protect them and therefore protect the services they work in."

Mr Johnson said: “Today marks a crucial milestone in our ongoing race to vaccinate the most vulnerable against this deadly disease.

“We said we would prioritise and protect care home residents, and that is exactly what we have done.”

But he added that there will be “difficult moments to come”, with the number of infections and individuals in hospital still “dangerously high”.

Care minister Helen Whately told ITV News that the government will be looking at how to reintroduce visits to care homes, now that most residents have been offered a vaccine.

She said: "I can't tell you now what date that will be, but I can absolutely assure you and assure relatives wanting to see their families in care homes that we really do want to see that as soon as its safe to do so."

Minister Helen Whately on when care home visits may be allowed again:

The news came after Captain Sir Tom Moore, the 100-year-old Second World War veteran whose charity walks inspired the nation early in the pandemic, was admitted to hospital after testing positive for Covid-19.

The PM was among those to wish Sir Tom well after he was taken to Bedford Hospital on Sunday, where he is being treated for pneumonia.

“You’ve inspired the whole nation, and I know we are all wishing you a full recovery,” Mr Johnson said.

Meanwhile, there was a fresh warning over the pressure being faced by the NHS.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents 240 trusts, said it will take “months” for the health service to return to normal after the pandemic ends.

With staff “completely exhausted”, Mr Hopson told the Guardian: “We cannot expect the NHS to carry on at the intensity we’ve been running at. We’ve completely run the tank dry and need to give people the chance to recover.”

Separately, a subgroup of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) said physical distancing and facemasks ought to be used more “consistently and effectively”, including in outdoor settings, to mitigate transmission of variant strains of Covid-19.

The paper from Sage’s environmental modelling group, from January 13, said: “Consideration should be given to using face coverings in a wider range of settings where people could be asymptomatic and may be in close proximity (less than two metres).

“This may include outdoor spaces where it is difficult to maintain distance and people may be close together for extended periods.”

Current rules require face masks in a number of indoor settings in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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