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Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that three in five adults in the UK have had both of their Covid vaccines.

The Cabinet minister said 82% of adults have had one jab and three in five had been double dosed.

Speaking at at Downing Street press conference, he said the rapid rollout of vaccinations was making the UK "a little bit safer every day" and had both prevented 44,500 hospitalisations and saved more than 14,000 lives in England so far.

He said: “Thanks to our vaccination programme, our incredible NHS, this country is getting a little bit safer every day.

“Whatever your age, whatever your background, the vaccine will protect you, it will protect your family and all the people that you care about.

“So please come forward and get both doses so we can take that final step on the road to recovery.”

He also praised the huge numbers of young people who rushed to get their vaccine since the programme was opened to everyone over 18.

One third of young people aged between 18 and 24 have been given their first vaccine, despite only becoming eligible on Friday, and one in two 25 to 29 year-olds have been given their first jab.

“I have been absolutely thrilled to see videos of young people coming forward at some of our major vaccination events last weekend and I’m sure they’ll be doing the same this coming weekend," he said.

(Image: Gov.uk)

“The enthusiasm is making a huge difference. We have already given first doses to almost half of all 25 to 29-year-olds in England and only a week after the programme opened to all adults on Friday, one third of people aged between 18 and 25 have had their first dose.

“To all of the young people who have stepped up, I want to say a huge thank you – you’ve protected yourself, you’ve protected your families and you’ve protected your communities, because the one thing you know, that we know, is that vaccines are making the real difference."

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It comes as health services grapple with the highly-transmissible Delta variant, first discovered in India, with Boris Johnson forced to delay 'Freedom Day' to July 19.

Fears are also growing over the new Delta-plus strain, with at least 41 cases already recorded in the country.

The Government said on Wednesday that the UK had recorded a further 16,135 Covid-19 cases – the highest reported daily toll since February 6.

Hospital admissions are rising but at a slower rate than the increase in infections, Public Health England's head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay said.

She said: “This is showing us the evidence that the vaccine is working and it’s breaking the link between cases and infection and hospitalisation.”

Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care NHS England, said they were mounting a push this weekend with vaccine walk-ins to get the jab to more people.

She said more people were coming forward from ethnic communities to get the jab with take-up increasing faster in black African and Pakistani communities than in white backgrounds.

“Between mid-March and mid-June uptake in black and Asian communities has continued increasing from 75% to 86% in Asian communities and jumping from 55% to 68% in black communities,” she said.

Mr Zahawi also defended the Prime Minister decision to delay the end of all restrictions by a month.

The Vaccines Minister said there had been more than 2 million people aged over 50 in England who had been given a first dose but not a second but, in the past two weeks, that figure had been brought down to 900,000.

(Image: Gov.uk)

“Our mission is now to get as many people protected as we can and to protect them as quickly as we can," he said.

“Last week we took the difficult but I think essential decision to pause Step 4 in our road map for four weeks with a review of the data after two weeks – and we will absolutely have that review and share the data with the nation.

“We’re going to use these four weeks to give our NHS that bit more time so we can get those remaining jabs in arms of those who really do need them.”