Rishi Sunak discusses the Spring Budget
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His boost to get the UK moving again came as it was announced more than 20 million Britons have had at least one dose of the life-saving vaccine, including nine out of 10 of all those 65 and over. The Chancellor last night promised that the Treasury will use the cash to keep up the “momentum” of the jabs rollout to get businesses booming once more.
Nearly two million letters, arriving from today, will invite people aged 60 to 63 to arrange their inoculation date by using the national jab booking service.
Ahead of revealing his spending plans on Wednesday, the Chancellor said: “The UK’s vaccination programme has been a great success and is protecting lives and livelihoods.
“But it’s essential we maintain this momentum.
“Protecting ourselves against the virus means we will be able to lift restrictions, reopen our economy and focus our attention on creating jobs and stimulating growth.”
Asked if the furlough scheme that offers financial support to businesses would be extended, Mr Sunak told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge: “I said at the beginning of this crisis that I would do whatever it took to protect people, families and businesses through this crisis and I remain completely committed to that.
“The PM in the road map set out a path for us to recover and reopen – and I want to support people and businesses along that path.
“We are going to be there to support them and if you look at our track record we went big, we went early and there’s more to come.”
In the Budget, Mr Sunak will also announce £33million for vaccine testing and development to protect against future Covid variants.
Around £5million will set up a “library” of vaccines at the Centre for Process Innovation in Darlington while there will be £22million for a world-leading study on the effectiveness of combining COVID-19 treatments.
Mr Sunak’s £1.65billion package aims to ensure that the Government hits its target of offering every adult a jab by July 31.
The Chancellor said on the BBC yesterday the rollout gave him the confidence that the economy will reopen this year. He added: “The big difference between last year and now is that we are vaccinating everybody with vaccines that the data shows are highly effective.
“We’re making great progress and it’s fantastic to see what the NHS is doing. I would urge everyone to go and get their vaccine.
“The road map that the Prime Minister has set out, with the dates spaced as they are to allow us to look at the data as it comes in after each step, provides a cautious but irreversible route back to freedom.”
Figures up to Saturday showed that of 20,885,683 jabs, some 20,089,551 were first doses – an increase of 407,503 in a day.
The total of 796,132 second shots was a rise of 27,322.
Meanwhile, 144 deaths with Covid were recorded yesterday, taking the UK total to 122,849. There were 6,035 more lab-confirmed coronavirus cases.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson called passing the 20million vaccinations milestone “a huge national achievement. Every jab makes a difference”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last night: “Well over a third of all adults have now received their first dose of a Covid vaccine.
“We are a step closer to returning to our normal lives. Thank you to everyone in the NHS, local authorities and volunteers who have been working tirelessly to make this happen.” Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi praised “the brilliant efforts” of GPs, community pharmacists and frontline staff, adding: “Our vaccination programme has been a huge success.”
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “Vaccinating 20million people…in a few short weeks shows the NHS vaccination campaign is firing on all cylinders.”
The latest batch of invitations arranging jabs means everyone in the first seven priority groups will soon have been offered an inoculation.
Stephen Powis, the NHS national medical director, said: “It is incredible that more than nine out of 10 people aged 65 and over have already received potentially life-saving protection.
“It is down to the hard work of NHS staff, volunteers and all the others supporting the vaccination programme that we can now invite everyone aged 60 to 63.”
Last week, the NHS wrote to almost 450,000 people aged 64 to invite them for jabs.
People can use the national booking service to reserve a slot at one of more than 100 NHS Vaccination Centres or almost 200 pharmacy-led services.
Jabs are being given at more than 1,500 sites including mosques and sports grounds, so 98 per cent of the country is within 10 miles of one.
Teams will visit the housebound and others who cannot travel.
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