TORY PM Johnson must wait until there are fewer than 1,000 Covid infections a day before lifting lockdown, NHS bosses and scientists have warned.
The latest figures showed another 828 people in the UK have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test, and there were a further 18,262 cases.
As of last Friday, the UK had given a first jab to nearly 11.5 million people.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, is set to write to Johnson and urge him not to lift the restrictions or face another unmanageable increase of infections – despite 22% of all over-18s in the UK now having been vaccinated.
SAGE modelling has also predicted a fourth wave of more than 1,000 deaths a day in the spring if restrictions are lifted completely – or eased too quickly – when the rules are set to be reviewed on March 8.
The government’s scientific advisers believe there could be a further 130,000 deaths between now and June next year, taking the total close to 250,000.
Hospitalisations are falling rapidly but there are still 29,326 patIents in hospital with coronavirus in the UK.
Hopson said yesterday: ‘We have crested the peak but we’re only just beginning the descent.’
Currently infections are dropping at approximately 20% a week.
Johnson is set to unveil his road map out of lockdown towards the end of the month, with the return of schools expected from March 8, followed by bars and restaurants in April and May.
The government has ruled out plans to issue so-called ‘vaccine passports’ to enable people who have had a coronavirus vaccination to travel abroad.
The Greek prime minister has said he would welcome British holidaymakers if they could prove they have been vaccinated.
But vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that people could get evidence from their GP.
He said there are several reasons why vaccine passports would not be introduced, not least because the vaccine was not mandatory in the UK.
‘That’s not how we do things. We do them by consent,’ he said.
Zahawi said vaccine passports would be ‘discriminatory’ and it isn’t clear what impact they would have on transmission of the virus.
He said people could talk to their doctor if they needed written evidence to travel.
‘Of course you have the evidence that you have been vaccinated held by your GP and if other countries require you to show proof of that evidence then that is up to those countries,’ he said.