BRITS' return to freedom could be delayed due to "significant" Covid vaccine shortages, an expert has warned.
Currently, Boris Johnson's roadmap of lockdown will see all Covid restrictions lifted by July 21 – with Brits eagerly awaiting for the chance to see their mates and head back to the pub.
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But most Brits in their 40s were warned they will have to wait until May for their first Covid jab due to the drop in supply.
And experts have since cautioned of the "ripple effects" that the supply delay could cause.
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, said: "It will undoubtedly make the meeting of the target dates for lifting restrictions more difficult than they otherwise would have been.
"By pushing back the under-50s first doses, their second doses are also being pushed back.
"If full vaccination becomes required for holidays abroad or even more mundane things like going to the cinema, millions of younger people may end up being excluded from participating for the whole summer."
It comes as…
- Robert Jenrick insisted all adults would get the vaccine by July
- Astrazeneca has insisted there was no delay in their supply chain
- Under-50s will have to wait another month for the jab, it was warned
- Matt Hancock revealed shielding for vulnerable Brits will end on March 31
- Judge Rinder hailed the 'amazing' Jabs Army volunteers
Each phase of the roadmap is dependent on the success of the vaccination program.
But Astrazeneca has insisted there was no delay in their supply chain, saying: “Our UK domestic supply chain is not experiencing any disruption and there is no impact on our delivery schedule.”
Officials had been relying on ten million extra doses of the Oxford jab from India to bolster supplies this month – but only half have been delivered on time.
It means the second phase of the immunisation blitz, which involves all health Brits under 50, is unlikely to start before mid-April and will be initially much slower.
And Housing Minister Robert Jenrick today insisted the UK remains on target to hit its key jabbing targets, including offering all adults a dose by the end of July.
He said: "Nobody who has an appointment should be concerned – you’re still going to get your second vaccine, all those appointments will be honoured.”
It came after Health secretary Matt Hancock earlier warned that supply will always be “lumpy” despite the success of Britain’s vaccine rollout.
He told a Downing Street press conference last night: "At the same time as opening up offers of vaccinations to all those who are 50 or above, we're going to do whatever it takes to reach all those in the most vulnerable groups who haven't come forward yet.
"Before we move on to the next cohort. And we will do that before we move on to people in their 40s."
Under the PM's roadmap outdoor gatherings of up to six people or two separate households outdoors are to be allowed from March 29.
Outside sports will also be able to resume then.
Then April 12 is the next big date when non-essential shops, hairdressers, and some public buildings like libraries are set to reopen.
On May 17 most constraints on outdoor socialising should be lifted, and six people or two households will be allowed to meet indoors.
Pubs and restaurants will also be allowed to serve again inside, and hotels will reopen.
Finally, on June 21 it is planned that all legal limits on socialising will be ditched.
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