Coronavirus cases are continuing to rise across every region in England but health leaders have said that vaccines are breaking the chain from infections to hospital admissions and deaths.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said that with more than nine million people in their 20s and 30s having had a first jab, the country is “well on track” for July 19 when Covid restrictions could be eased.
His comments come after new figures from Public Health England (PHE), published on Thursday, showed that Covid-19 rates in all regions of England are continuing to increase.
North-west England has the highest rate with 238.9 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to June 20, up week-on-week from 200.3.
This is the highest rate for the region since the week ending January 31.
North-east England has the second highest rate at 173.6, up sharply from 94.1, while Eastern England has the lowest rate which is up from 37.4 to 46.9.
However, PHE said that Covid-19 hospital admissions and deaths with Covid-19 have only “increased slightly” in the week to June 20.
Sir Simon said: “It’s now clear that the NHS vaccination campaign is clearly breaking the link between Covid infections on the one hand, and hospitalisations – and it appears deaths – on the other.
“Nine-and-a-half million people in their 20s and 30s have now already had their first Covid jab, and since we’re now open to all adults, this weekend we’ll be having another ‘GrabAJab’ campaign.
“So we are well on track in the sprint to July 19 and the summer freedoms we all hope to see.”
He also said that next week the NHS will be “firing the starting gun” on planning for autumn Covid boosters and the flu campaign.
Sir Simon added: “Next week we’ll also be firing the starting gun across the NHS on planning for the autumn Covid booster and flu campaign, as soon as we get the advice from the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation].
“That campaign will run from the early September through to mid-December, and will further reinforce our shared immunity wall against winter Covid.”
The latest Test and Trace figures show that 55,417 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to June 16, up 34% on the previous week.
It is the highest number of people testing positive since the week to February 24.
Meanwhile, PHE said that case rates in England among all age groups are continuing to rise, with the highest among 20 to 29-year-olds at 267.9 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to June 20, up week-on-week from 200.4.
The second highest rate is among 10 to 19-year-olds, the age group to see the biggest week-on-week increase, up from 146.1 to 217.4.
PHE medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said: “Cases continue to rise across the country, with the largest case rates in those aged 20-29.
“While many of us are enjoying the relaxation of restrictions and events as summer begins, we all need to help control infections.
“The easiest way to do this is by getting both doses of the vaccine as soon as you are offered, remind ourselves it is safer to mix outside, keep our distance where possible and wear a face covering when required.”