Matt Hancock has hailed the 'spectacular' city of Coventry for the most successful vaccine rollout in the UK so far.
During a Downing Street press conference on Friday the health secretary applauded "the whole team on Coventry and Warwickshire who have delivered the highest uptake and given a first dose to 95% of over-65s".
"This is a spectacular effort," he said.
Hancock confirmed that more than 19 million first doses have now been given, but warned that people must not become complacent.
There has been a fall of 40% in the number of people in hospital over the past two weeks, however there are still 15,485 hospitalised with Covid-19, which is "far too high", he said.
And while infection rates are falling, they are not falling as quickly, and in some areas the rate of decline "has flattened", Hancock said. Adding that one in five local authorities saw a rise in infection numbers last week.
The briefing took place just after the next stage of the UK's coronavirus vaccine rollout was revealed.
People aged 40-49 will be prioritised next, with scientific advisers saying the move will “provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time”.
Calls to give the jab to certain professions, including teachers and police officers, have been rejected.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) concluded the most effective way to prevent death and hospital admission is to carry on prioritising people by age.
And Downing Street has defended the decision. A No 10 spokesman said: “The JCVI have advised that even in the under 50s, age remains the biggest single factor determining mortality and hospitalisations, so it is therefore right that we accept their advice to continue to prioritise by age as this will protect the most people and have the biggest impact on reducing NHS pressures."
England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam adopted a more sober tone as he followed Hancock's introduction at the briefing.
"It's not a battle we have won," he warned.
Watch: Don't wreck this now, warns Jonathan Van-Tam
"As much as I'm upbeat about vaccines, there's a long way to go," prof Van-Tam warned. He said that he receives letters "daily" from people asking whether they can mix with others or visit family because they have had the first dose of the vaccine.
"No," he said.
"The rules still apply to all of you and all of us, it doesn't change because you have had your first dose.
"The data speak for themselves. There are worry signs that people are taking their foot off the brake." Prof Van-Tam likened the situation to a football match, saying that just because a team were winning three nil, didn't mean they could count on winning.
"Do not wreck this now, it is too early to relax. We are so close," he said.
The briefing took a much more sombre tone than those of late following the disclosure of Boris Johnson's 'roadmap' out of lockdown. From 8 March all schools will reopen, and socialising with one other person in a park or public space will also be allowed. By 29 March, this will be extended to up to six people, or two households, with gatherings also permitted in private gardens.
But the government has warned it will be guided by data, not dates.
We're nearly there, let's not blow it," said Hancock, before taking questions from the public.
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