Hancock was asked when the restrictions can be eased during a televised briefing where he updated the nation on the government’s plan to roll out CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus vaccines.
“I’ll explain how we’re going to go about answering that, because obviously we can’t, as of today, give an answer in terms of dates,” Hancock said.
The government plans to vaccinate everyone in the four groups that have the highest death rate from the CCP virus—care home residents and their carers, everyone over the age of 70, all frontline health and social care workers, and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable—with the first dose by mid-February.
If the vaccination roll-out goes according to plan, Hancock said, “then I very much hope we will see the number of deaths from this disease coming down.”
However, those in their 60s are also “a significant proportion of those in hospital and the pressure on hospitals. So we’ve got to make sure that we get them vaccinated as fast as possible too,” Hancock said, “and we will monitor very closely the impact of the vaccination programme on hospitalizations and on the pressure on hospitals, right across the UK.”
He added that another critical factor that we don’t know yet is the vaccines’ impact on transmissibility of the CCP virus.
“We know that the vaccine reduces your chances of getting COVID and then of being hospitalized or dying from COVID. And we know that it gives you that protection,” he said.
“What we don’t yet know, but we’re following very closely … is how much you might transmit COVID, even if you don’t suffer from the disease.”
Hancock said he hopes that the vaccine can have a significant downward impact on that transmissibility.
“It’s something that we are monitoring and, in fact, we’re testing people for after they have had the vaccine. This is called the pharmacovigilance strategy.”
Steve Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, said that vaccinations will inevitably bring about a reduction in hospitalization, but not now or in the next few weeks.
“It won’t be until we get to February that we will start to see the early signs of that,” Powis said. He urged people to comply with the restrictions before they see the benefits of the vaccine programme.