During a visit to Glasgow Lighthouse Lab, Mr Hancock told reporters: “I’ve said before that I’m optimistic for a great British summer and I’m now more optimistic about having a great British summer than I have been at any time, thanks to the speed and the effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.”
Meanwhile, the UK regulator has announced that coronavirus vaccines tweaked to deal with variants will be fast-tracked, with a brand new approval not required. The approach will be similar to the regulatory process for the modified flu vaccine.
Italy blocks vaccine shipment to Australia
Italy has halted the shipment of 250,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to Australia.
The move comes after the European Union changed the rules on vaccines being shipped outside the bloc.
It is the first time such an intervention has been triggered.
A further 184 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England
The latest figure from NHS England brings the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 83,917.
Patients were aged between 19 and 98. All except six, aged between 47 and 85, had known underlying health conditions.
The deaths were between November 19 and March 3, with the majority being on or after February 28.
There were 50 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
Vaccine take-up in London among people aged 80 and over continues to lag behind other regions of England, figures suggest
An estimated 83.2 per cent of people in this age group in the capital have had their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to NHS England.
Take-up in all other regions is estimated to be at least 95 per cent, with south-west England having the highest proportion at 98.9 per cent.
Around 93.6% of people aged 65 and over in England have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine
Regional estimates range from 84.7% for London to 95.9% for south-west England.
The figures, from NHS England, are for first doses of the vaccine up to February 28.
Here are the estimated figures for each region:
North-east England/Yorkshire 93.7%
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Case rates in England are also continuing to fall among all age groups, says PHE
The highest rate is among 30 to 39-year-olds, at 121.1 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to February 28, down week-on-week from 178.3.
Among 20 to 29-year-olds the rate dropped from 161.3 to 111.3, and for 40 to 49-year-olds it fell from 148.0 to 102.0.
For people aged 80 and over, the rate fell from 101.8 to 65.0.
PHE weekly survey: Covid-19 case rates are continuing to fall in all regions of England
In the East Midlands, the rate of new cases stood at 120.8 per 100,000 people in the seven days to February 28 – the highest rate of any region, but down from 170.5 the previous week.
Yorkshire & the Humber recorded the second highest rate at 113.6, down from 154.0.
South-west England recorded the lowest rate of 43.2, down from 68.5.
Ireland: People with underlining health conditions and at high risk of Covid set to get jab
People with underlying conditions who are at high risk from Covid-19 will begin receiving their vaccines next week, the Health Minister said.
The Cohort 4 group includes people aged 16-69 with a medical condition that puts them at very high risk of severe disease and death.
Stephen Donnelly told the Dail: “It’s a complex group, this is complex work and planning and engagement is ongoing.
“The HSE is currently working through the details for how these patients will be contacted and indeed where they will be vaccinated.”
Boris Johnson appeals for vaccinated over-80s not to break Covid rules
Boris Johnson has appealed for over-80s to continue observing lockdown restrictions after receiving the Covid vaccine, as a new study found that more than 40 per cent had breached them.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson told the Independent the prime minister was urging people to remain patient after and continue observing the rules after receiving the jab.
The spokesman said: “He would say that … it is important that people continue to follow the guidelines that are in place.
“We are allowing some easements from Monday next week, in terms of allowing for one-on-one recreational meetings in public places.
“But it is important as we move through the pandemic that people continue to follow the rules and guidelines,” the Independent reported.
More than 40% of over-80s breached lockdown rules after jab, survey suggests
More than four in ten over-80s who received a coronavirus vaccine during the current lockdown appear to have since broken the rules by meeting up with someone indoors, figures suggest.
Some 43% of elderly people surveyed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said they had met someone other than a personal care support worker, member of their household or support bubble indoors since being vaccinated.
The study polled 2,070 over-80s in England, with around 1% residing in a care or nursing home.
It found that 41% of over-80s vaccinated in the previous three weeks said they had done so, “appearing to break lockdown regulations”, according to the ONS.
Under rules introduced in England at the start of January, family or friends cannot meet socially indoors unless they are in the same household or support bubble.
Overall, 48% of over-80s who had received both vaccine doses had since met up with someone indoors who was not in their household, support bubble or a care worker.
Two-thirds (67%) had met with someone they do not live with indoors since getting the jab, which could include members of their support bubble and care workers.
The figures come from the ONS’ ‘Over 80s Vaccines Insights study’ ran from February 15 to 20, by which point the Government said it had offered the jab to everyone in the top four priority groups, which includes the over-80s.