Nadhim Zahawi has insisted Britain’s vaccination programme is starting to “really bear fruit”, as he suggested evidence to be published today on the impact of jabs on hospitalisations and transmission was encouraging.
With the latest figures showing over 17.5 million people having received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, Mr Zahawi said the prime minister will also reveal critical data on the effect of vaccines on hospital admissions and transmission of the virus.
“The prime minister will say more about this, but you will know that Public Health England have been running a couple of large scale studies,” he told Sky News.
“Suffice to say the evidence looks good. The Oxford team demonstrated their own evidence of cutting transmission by two thirds.
“We wouldn’t be in this place this morning to be able to say that we’re going to reopen schools on 8 March, and of course, as the school holidays begin on 29 March, we will look at the rule of six and two families being (able) to see each other outdoors, if we’re not confident that actually the vaccine programme is beginning to really bear fruit.”
However, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician from the University of Cambridge who sits on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said it was “upsetting” ministers were yet to publish more data on the vaccine rollout.
“We don’t know about the numbers of proportions by the priority groups — the group one to nine; we don’t know the proportions by ethnicity; we don’t know this broken down by region,” he said.
“I mean they do, somebody does, but we’re not getting it. And I think that’s a real shame as it was asked for a long time ago and so far nothing has happened.”
On the easing of restrictions, Mr Zahawi said in a separate interview the roadmap was about the “gradual reopening of the whole of England”, rather than a regional lifting of restrictions.
Asked if the tier system would return, he told LBC: “I think because the way this new variant actually took hold, which has become the dominant variant, the Kent variant, in the United Kingdom, infection rates around the country pretty much rose to similar, very high, unsustainable levels.
“So the view is very much that this is about a gradual reopening of the whole of England, not regional.”