The fall in coronavirus cases and deaths has been fuelled by lockdown rather than vaccines, Boris Johnson warned as over-40s began queuing for jabs.
Solicitor Emily Sanderson, who is aged 28 and who has an underlying health condition, became one of the first people in England to get the Moderna vaccination yesterday.
NHS England medical director Professor Stephen Powis called the move “another milestone” in the inoculation programme.
Moderna injections in England will be used at an initial 21 sites including Sheffield Arena and Reading’s Madejski Stadium.
Wales and Scotland began using the vaccine last week.
But with beer gardens packed, shoppers and families queuing for stores and hairdressers, the Prime Minister warned the fall in Covid-19 infections, hospital admissions and deaths “has not been achieved by the vaccination programme” but by tough restrictions imposed in the first week of January.
“Of course the vaccination programme has helped, but the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown,” Mr Johnson said.
“So, as we unlock, the result will inevitably be we will see more infection, sadly we will see more hospitalisation and deaths. People have just got to understand that.”
Despite officials launching Britain’s biggest Covid-19 surge testing operation to tackle 44 cases of the South African coronavirus variant in South London, the PM insisted he “can’t see any reason” to change his “roadmap” for unlocking the economy.
People who live, work or travel through Lambeth and Wandsworth have been urged to get highly accurate polymerase chain reaction coronavirus tests even if they do not have symptoms.
The outbreak is understood to have started when a man flew in to the UK from Africa in January before spreading to a care home.
The PM’s spokesman said: “This is something we are taking very seriously and the effective surge testing processes that we have in place have been working well here.
“We know that variants do pose a risk, it’s one of our four tests for the progression of the roadmap. But… we have strong measures in place to find and isolate new cases.”
Mr Johnson insisted “I can’t see any reason for us to change the roadmap, to deviate from the targets we’ve set ourselves”, but he urged people to be cautious.
The next stages of England’s gradual lifting of lockdown curbs are due on May 17 and June 21.
Health experts warned people to continue social distancing after the reopening of non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes on Monday.
Professor Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, urged maintaining precautions to stop the spread of Covid-19.
“The vaccines are only one part of the solution to the problem. People do need to continue to be careful and to avoid infecting each other,” he said.
“I am going to continue to take a lot of care to avoid exposing myself to other people and to avoid exposing other people to me over the coming weeks and months.
“I’m going to wear a mask outside, I’m going to continue to use hand hygiene and I’m going to avoid close social contact.
“I think we all need to continue to do that otherwise there is a real risk that there will be another surge in cases and we’ll start seeing hospitalisations and deaths again.”
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson warned that, despite the success of the vaccine rollout, people should not assume the country is on a “one-way, inexorable, inevitable track to it all being fantastic”.
“I know I might sound a bit like a prophet of doom the day after we’ve started enabling people to go back to the pub garden, but the reality is there are… really good reasons why we need to be cautious here,” he told Sky News.
NHS England’s vaccine booking website crashed yesterda yas people aged 45 to 49 tried to secure slots. There are an estimated 3.7 million people in England in the age bracket. Other users reported being placed in a queue.
Supplies to Britain of the single-shot Janssen vaccine by Johnson & Johnson may be delayed after a small number of blood clots were detected in the US.
The jab is set to be approved by UK regulators within days, with the aim of speeding up vaccination of young people over the summer because there is no second injection.
Britain has ordered 30 million doses and hundreds of thousands were due to be shipped to Europe in the coming weeks.
But six women under-50 developed the extremely rare clots after 6.8 million doses were administered in the US. One died.
The US company said: “We’ve been reviewing these cases with European health authorities. We’ve made the decision to proactively delay the rollout of our vaccine in Europe.”
Dr Siu Ping Lam, director of licensing for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said: “No vaccine would be authorised for use in the UK unless the expected high standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been met.”
The Department of Health and Social Care insisted Johnson & Johnson’s decision would not derail the UK’s plan to offer a jab to all adults before August. A spokesman said: “We are on track to offer a jab to all adults by the end of July.”
The setback comes after use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab was suspended in some European countries after the same CVST condition was detected.
British regulators have suggested people in the UK aged under-30 should receive Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna injections instead.
University students in England will not be allowed to return to campus until mid-May at the earliest, the Government confirmed last night.
The Department for Education expects that all remaining students can return to face-to-face teaching when further easing of contact indoors happens, no earlier than May 17.
And as pub-goers enjoyed a second day in England of beer gardens, Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, urged caution.
She said: “The joy was palpable… but the stakes are high and we must get it right. It’s vital we all work together to make it a success.”