UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted England will be able to fully reopen its economy and society in July.
“We are very confident that we’ll be able to go through with step four of the road map, on the timetable that I’ve set out, with treating July 19 as a terminus date,” Johnson said.
His comments came despite the latest figures from Public Health England showing cases of the Delta variant have increased 78% in the past week.
The number of people with Covid-19 in hospital has almost doubled in a week, although patients are thought to be mostly people who haven’t been vaccinated or only partially vaccinated.
However, several senior scientific advisers in the UK now believe the country is at the start of a third wave of infections.
Meanwhile, everyone aged over 18 in England can now book a vaccine.
Johnson urged young people to get the jab and he thanked them for their patience.
“You’ve acted selflessly and sacrificed so much to save others in this pandemic. Now the end is in sight. Please get your jabs as soon as you can,” he said in a message posted via social media.
Over the weekend large numbers of young people went for their jabs at centres set up in three of London’s large football stadiums.
Thousands spent the day queuing for jabs amid warnings a third wave of infections is “definitely underway”.
The Independent reported that long queues formed outside “super pop-up” vaccination centres at football grounds in London on Saturday as the vaccine programme was opened up to anyone aged over 18.
A huge line was in place at the London Stadium in Stratford, east London, as people waited for their jab, while giant clinics were also set up at Tottenham Hotspur and at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea had 6,000 Pfizer doses ready to administer.
Meanwhile the UK recorded a further 14 Covid deaths, and more than 10,000 cases for the third day in a row, as the Delta variant, first identified in India, continued to drive a spike in infections.
Earlier this month, Johnson received his second dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine.
He posted a photo on social media showing him getting the shot and captioned it: “Second jab done. When it’s your turn, get the jab.”
He had received his first dose of the vaccine at St Thomas’ Hospital in March, where the 56-year-old had previously spent several days in intensive care last year after being infected with Covid-19.