Experts feared going ahead with step four of the road map could lead to hospital admissions on the scale of the first wave of Covid-19, heaping unsustainable pressure on the health service.
To avert that danger, Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference that it is ‘sensible to wait just a little longer’ as he put back the end of all legal limits on social contact to July 19.
It is hoped that the delay for easing restrictions will mean that around two-thirds of adults will have been offered both doses of vaccine by then.
It comes as a new PHE study found that unvaccinated people have twice the risk of hospital admission with the Delta variant as the Alpha variant.
PHE’s study of hospital admissions found that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 94% effective against hospital admission after just one dose, rising to 96% after two doses.
And the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is 71% effective against hospital admission after just one dose, rising to 92% after two doses.
Protection against death is also expected to be high, but further work is underway to confirm this, PHE said.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘Spi-M modelling suggests if we were to go ahead with step four on Monday there’s a possibility of hospitalisations around the peak of the first wave.
‘But vaccine effectiveness especially after two doses means thousands more deaths can be prevented if people are jabbed.
‘By reducing the dosing interval for over 40s from 12 weeks to eight weeks, all over 40s who received a first dose by mid-May will have been offered their second dose by week commencing July 19. By July 19 cohorts 1-9 will have been offered a second dose and over 18s will have been offered a first dose.
‘This will mean around two-thirds of adults will have been offered two doses, reducing the risk of hospitalisations and deaths.’
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