Video report by ITV News Political Reporter David Woods
The UK has set a new record for the number of Covid-19 jabs given, the second time the record has been broken in two days.
The record number - 711,156 first and second doses - means that the major milestone of vaccinating half of the adult population has been reached.
Government data up to the end of March 19 suggests that 26,853,407 people aged 18 and over have now received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine - around 51% of the population - while 2,132,551 second doses have been administered.A separate milestone has been passed in Wales, where one in 10 of the total population is likely to have had both doses of the vaccine.
Boris Johnson was amongst those to receive a Covid vaccine on Friday, with all over-50s in England now eligible to book at jab.
Following the news of the record number of jabs given, the prime minister said he was "immensely proud of the progress we have made so far in rolling out vaccinations.
"There is still further to go and I encourage everyone to take up the offer when asked to do so.
"I received my first vaccine yesterday and would like to thank the brilliant NHS staff I met, alongside the teams and volunteers working across the UK to deliver this vital protection."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock also praised NHS staff and volunteers, saying: "It's fantastic that we have had a new record day of jabs done in a day.
"This milestone is thanks to a massive team effort.
"The NHS, local government, armed forces and volunteers have worked tirelessly to deliver jabs to the most vulnerable in our country."
Meanwhile, a rise in coronavirus infections has led to countries across Europe imposing tougher restrictions, with UK scientists concerned about outbreaks of the South African variant.
Earlier, Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, said the UK must keep the South African Covid-19 variant at bay as some European countries reported a third wave of infections.
Prof Ferguson, who spurred the UK’s decision to go into lockdown last March, warned that a group of European countries are seeing increasing levels of coronavirus cases.
“Perhaps more concern for the UK though is that some countries are notably seeing a significant fraction, 5-10% of cases, of the South African variant,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“That is the variant we really do want to keep out of the UK.”
A study published on Thursday by Oxford University suggested that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs could struggle against the South African variant and may end up offering limited protection.
Researchers said the South African variant should be the focus of any efforts to create new vaccines that may be needed next winter.
Prof Ferguson said there are “important decisions coming up” with regards to dealing with variants, including how much the ban on international travel is relaxed.
One way of dealing with variants may be through “introducing testing of people coming into the country”, he suggested, but added: “These are policy decisions.”
In Europe, the French government announced that new lockdown restrictions would be imposed on Paris from midnight on Friday due to an increase in cases.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said France was facing a “third wave” of the pandemic, adding the new measures will last for four weeks.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany may need to apply an “emergency break” on relaxing restrictions amid a rise in infections.
Poland begins a new three-week lockdown on Saturday, with shops, hotels, cultural and sporting facilities closed, while other countries including Italy and Spain have opted for curfews in a bid to reduce the rate of transmission.
Labour is calling on the government to introduce a mandatory hotel quarantine for international arrivals in a bid to stop variants being imported to the UK, says Political Reporter David Wood
Europe is trailing behind the UK in its vaccine rollout due to a slow start in clinching contracts for doses and over unfounded fears linking the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab with blood clots.
Countries including France, Germany, Ireland and Italy have also began restarting their vaccine programmes with the AstraZeneca jab – reversing earlier decisions to suspend them over blood clot concerns.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the AstraZeneca vaccine was “safe and effective” and its benefits in preventing Covid-19 hospital admission and death greatly outweighed potential risks.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have said that the jab is safe and have encouraged people to take up their vaccine appointments.
Listen to the ITV News coronavirus podcast:
ONS figures also showed that around one in 340 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to March 13, down from around one in 270 the week before.
In Wales, around one in 430 people are estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week to March 13 (down from one in 365), while the figure was one in 315 in Northern Ireland (similar to the week before) and around one in 275 in Scotland, up from one in 320.