The Prime Minister has warned that the nation is “not out of the woods yet” as the Covid-19 vaccination programme hit the milestone of delivering second jabs to a quarter of the adult population.
Boris Johnson raised concerns about new variants of the virus during a meeting of the Cabinet, but he told ministers that the road ahead “looks positive”.
And he hailed the “huge achievement” of the vaccination programme as figures show that one in four (25%) UK adults have had their second coronavirus jab.
It comes as people aged 42 and over in England were called to come forward to get their vaccine.
Meanwhile separate figures show that deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales have fallen 97% since the peak of the second wave of the virus.
Downing Street said in a statement: “Cabinet concluded with an update on the pandemic.
“The PM reiterated that the data continues to look good but warned that we are not out of the woods yet as variants of concern continue to pose a threat.
“The PM said that while the road ahead looks positive, there will still be challenges and this Government will continue to take tough decisions where necessary to protect both lives and livelihoods.”
Meanwhile the NHS coronavirus vaccine booking system was extended for the second time in two days to allow more healthy adults in their 40s to book their jab.
People in England who are aged 42 and over, or those who will turn 42 before July 1, can now arrange their vaccine appointment through the national booking website.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “standing by” his phone waiting for a text message as he was now eligible for the jab.
And Mr Hancock praised the “terrific effort” of vaccinating a quarter of the adult population.
The Department of Health and Social Care said that health services across the UK have now administered a total of 47,045,391 vaccines.
This includes 13,201,811 second doses.
“This latest milestone is a terrific cause for celebration – over a quarter of all adults across the UK, including those most vulnerable to Covid-19, have now had two jabs, meaning they have received the strongest possible protection,” Mr Hancock said.
“There is undeniable evidence that vaccines are saving lives, significantly reducing hospitalisations and deaths. I urge all those who are offered an appointment to get their jab and join the millions of people who now have protection from this terrible disease.”
Mr Johnson tweeted: “This is a huge achievement made possible by the tireless work of so many across our country.”
Meanwhile, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that a total of 266 deaths occurred in the week ending April 9 where Covid-19 was recorded on the death certificate.
This is down 97% from 8,965 deaths in the week to January 22, the peak of the second wave, when more than a thousand deaths were taking place each day.
A total of 152,205 deaths have now occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said.
It comes after medical supplies from the UK arrived in India, which is facing a significant wave of infections, with some healthcare facilities in the country buckling under the strain.
The first of nine plane-loads of life-saving kit, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators, arrived in New Delhi early on Tuesday.
The Foreign Office said that the first shipment included 200 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, which will be sent to Indian hospitals.
The move follows discussions with India’s government following a devastating surge in Covid-19 cases which has overwhelmed the country’s health services.
Further consignments are due to be dispatched later this week, including another 400 oxygen concentrators.