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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told Sky News that all adults in the UK will be offered a COVID vaccine by the end of July.
MATT HANCOCK: Committed to all adults will be offered the first dose of the vaccine by the end of July. We're on track to deliver that. And I'm absolutely delighted that today, half of all adults have now been vaccinated, including the prime minister yesterday. And yesterday was, in fact, the biggest day of vaccinations in this country's history. The team are doing an amazing job.
- And is this vaccination program enough to avoid a third wave?
MATT HANCOCK: Well, the vaccination program is our route out of the pandemic. It will help us to protect people. And we know that these vaccines protect you. We also know that they protect those around you. And they make it less likely that others, your loved ones, will catch coronavirus, too. And of course, for all of us, they're our route out. So I'm just delighted that so many people are coming forward and getting the jab.
- When you see what's happening in Europe-- warnings of a third wave, a lockdown happening in Paris-- do you feel concerned?
MATT HANCOCK: Well, of course, we've got to be vigilant because we know that this virus spreads ruthlessly. And we've set out the roadmap for a cautious-- but, I very much hope, irreversible-- exit from these lockdowns. We set out the dates carefully. And the first big step will be on the 12th of April if the data show that it's safe to make that move-- after, of course, children go back to school a couple of weeks ago.
The whole point of the roadmap is to be cautious and careful, understanding that this virus lives only to spread. And of course, it's the vaccine that allows the roadmap to be there at all. We've seen from the first wave a year ago and from the second wave in the autumn that we saw it first on the continent in Europe and then we saw it here.
So of course, we're absolutely vigilant. But there is no sign that we won't be able to make progress as set out in the roadmap. Here, thankfully the number of deaths is falling very, very fast by more than a third a week. We are seeing something of a flattening in the number of cases. But they're still coming down.
And of course, the vaccine rollout is going-- is going incredibly well. So we're on track to meet the commitments we've made to vaccinate the whole population, offer that first jab by the end of July, and to meet the dates set out in the roadmap. But we'll stay vigilant and we'll be cautious and careful in our approach.
- And in terms of Europe, do you believe that travel corridors and the vaccine passport system, do you think that is effective and could protect us from potentially what is happening across the English Channel?
MATT HANCOCK: Well, we've set out in the roadmap the approach to international travel, which is that there shouldn't be international travel unless it's absolutely essential until the 17th of May. And after that, we have a global travel task force, which I chair alongside my colleague, the Transport Secretary, with all of the travel companies on how we can open up international travel safely.
And we'll make a judgment ahead of the 17th of May about whether it's safe to do so and set out more details when we've seen the impact and a bit nearer the time.
- I'm sure you've seen the comments today by Mike Tildesley from SAGE, saying international travel-- extremely unlikely this summer. He's got a point, doesn't he?
MATT HANCOCK: Well, we have to be vigilant. And we've set out the steps in the road map that there should be no international travel unless it's absolutely necessary until the 17th of May. And then the global travel task force will make a judgment and work with the industry on how quickly and whether we'll be able to reopen and how we can reopen in a way that is safe, should we be able to do so.
That's a judgment that we should make in a few weeks' time, not now. And of course, we'll look at the rates, both here and abroad, and the impact of new variants to understand whether it's safe to make that move.
- Finally, there have been a lot of question marks over the AstraZeneca vaccine, something that you obviously were heavily involved in sort of funding the start of. Seeing some of the pictures on TV screens in the past couple of days, including with the French prime minister, how do you feel at the end of what's been a pretty difficult week for those involved in that vaccine?
MATT HANCOCK: Well, the whole vaccines program has been such a huge team effort and there have been challenges all along the way. But we're making great strides. And really, it's a national success story that everybody can be proud of. And I'm very, very glad that European countries are now restarting their vaccination program using the Oxford AstraZeneca jab.
The European regulator has been clear throughout that this is safe and effective. And it's very good to see that backed up by the French prime minister taking the Oxford jab himself yesterday along with ours and lots of my colleagues and a record number of people across this country.