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Matt Hancock says people will be able to enjoy ‘happy and free great British summer’

George Martin
·3-min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13: Health Secretary, Matt Hancock leaves Downing Street on January 13, 2021 in London, England. Today, Matt Hancock warned it is 'impossible to say' when lockdown will end. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Matt Hancock said the lifting of restrictions depends on the sucess of the vaccine rollout. (Getty)

Britons should be able to enjoy “a happy and free great British summer” if the vaccine rollout is successful, Matt Hancock has said.

The health secretary warned that there would be a “tough few months” between now and the summer and said people should expect to remain under social distancing restrictions for some time.

He told BBC Politics East, however: “In six months we’ll be in the middle, I hope, of a happy and free great British summer.

“I have a high degree of confidence that by then the vast majority of adults will have been vaccinated – and that’s not just the clinically vulnerable groups, but all groups.”

Watch: 8.98 million receive jab in UK

It comes as Public Health England's coronavirus strategy chief Dr Susan Hopkins said on Sunday measures must be eased slowly so "we can clamp down quite fast" if an increase of cases is seen.

Hopkins told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "We have learnt, as we did on the first occasion, we have to relax things really quite slowly, so that if cases start to increase we can clamp down quite fast.

"Any releases that we have will have to happen very slowly, very cautiously, watching and waiting as we go, with a two-week period to watch and see the impact of that relaxation because it takes that to see what's happening in the population."

Read more: 'Too early to say' whether UK will give some of its vaccine supply to other countries, minister says

England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has previously warned some restrictions may have to return next winter.

"We might have to bring in a few in the next winter for example, that's possible, because winter will benefit the virus," he said.

The government will next month publish its plan for easing England's third national, with 8 March earmarked for the first relaxation, with the wider reopening of schools.

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 29: A road sign directing recipients of the covid vaccine to the Allum Lane vaccination centre during the third coronavirus lockdown on January 29, 2021 in Borehamwood, England. With a surge of covid-19 cases fuelled partly by a more infectious variant of the virus, British leaders have reimposed nationwide lockdown measures across England through at least mid February. (Photo by Karwai Tang/Getty Images)
So far over eight million people have received a vaccine dose in England. (Getty)

Cabinet minister Liz Truss was asked on Sunday if social distancing measures may need to last for the rest of the year.

"I don't want to make predictions about the situation in the autumn, I think it's far too far away," she told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

As of Sunday, a total of 8,251,146 COVID-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between 8 December and 30 January, according to provisional NHS England data – a rise of 549,943 on the previous day's figures.

Hopkins said the scale of the impact of vaccine on the over-80s should become clear over the next two weeks.

"We are seeing declines in all age groups at the moment,” she added.

"We're starting to see declines in the over-70s and over-80s. It's a bit early to say whether those declines are directly related to the vaccine.

"What we would like to see is a divergence in the case rate in the over-70s and over-80s who have been vaccinated from the younger age groups, to show that they are declining faster.

"We have now hit 80% of the over-80s being vaccinated and really fast numbers climbing in the under 80-year-old age group as well.

"We expect over the next two weeks to start seeing that impact of that vaccine in that age group, and also an impact on hospitalisation."

Watch: Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked