Responding to the latest Downing Street press conference, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“Health leaders will accept that the country cannot remain in lockdown indefinitely, but they will know perhaps better than anyone how quickly the tide can turn. Continued caution is vital, and it’s important that we all keep up with precautions such as social distancing, hand hygiene and mask wearing.
“Of course, we trust that the chief medical officers have looked at all the evidence and made the right call in lowering the UK’s alert level from 4 to 3, and we also trust that they will be ready to move the dial in the other direction if the science dictates. With growing concern around new variants especially, the government’s careful and measured approach remains essential, and it must be prepared to act decisively to change arrangements if needs be. The NHS cannot afford another huge wave of infections and hospitalisations, as we saw in the winter.
“The news that no deaths were recorded today from COVID-19 in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland demonstrates how well the vaccination programme is working so far, coupled with the adherence to measures like social distancing and mask wearing. I make no apologies for continuing to highlight the extraordinary efforts of staff right across the NHS with news that more than two thirds of adults have now received the one dose of the vaccine and one third have received two doses. The latest analysis from Public Health England showing that individuals who receive a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine have approximately 80% lower risk of death offers further optimism.
“However, optimism must continue to be tempered by caution and we must remember what has gone before. It’s only a matter of a few months since deaths were far surpassing 1,000 a day and those deaths must not be in vain. We cannot afford to go backwards, especially as the NHS addresses the daunting and building demand for its services."