‘Don’t wreck this now’: Two reasons to ‘hang on’ and stick to COVID rules, according to Jonathan Van-Tam

Watch: 'Do not wreck this now,' warns Jonathan Van-Tam

“It’s a bit like being 3-0 up in a game and thinking ‘we can’t possibly lose this now’. But how many times have you seen the other side take it 4-3?”

It’s no surprise the person behind this quote warning against coronavirus complacency was Jonathan Van-Tam.

England’s deputy chief medical officer is famous for his COVID analogies. But while this one may have appeared light-hearted at first glance, Prof Van-Tam was deadly serious as he delivered it at Friday’s Downing Street press conference.

After the announcement earlier this week of a 21 June target date for England’s lockdown to end, Prof Van-Tam is clearly worried we could be losing ground after recent progress reducing COVID infections.

Britain's new Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jonathan Van-Tam attends a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London on February 26, 2021, to give an update on the coronavirus covid-19 pandemic. - Britain's next phase of coronavirus vaccines will be administered based on age rather than occupational risk, an advisory group said Friday, sparking anger from police and teachers who said they should get priority. (Photo by Matt Dunham / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MATT DUNHAM/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam: 'There are some worrying signs that people are relaxing.' (Matt Dunham/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Here are two key reasons he gave why everyone needs to continue obeying the current lockdown rules.

Tens of millions still to receive second vaccine dose

The UK’s vaccine rollout has been one of the most successful in the world, with 19,177,555 first doses given as of Thursday.

However, only 736,037 people have received their second dose, which is needed to maximise protection against COVID.

Prof Van-Tam pointed out there are 30 million people in the top priority groups of over-50s, care home residents, clinically extremely vulnerable people, over-16s with underlying health conditions, and frontline health and social care workers.

“By my rough calculations there are something like 40 million doses still to be given [to people in these groups].

“Much as it is encouraging and much as I am upbeat about vaccines and how they are going to change how we live… there is a long way to go.”

He added his inbox has been “besieged” with people who have received their first dose asking, for example, if they can see their grandchildren.

“The answer to that is no,” he said. "We are not yet collectively, as a country, in the right place.”

Cases rising in one in five UK areas

The government’s latest infection figures, for the seven days up to 21 February, show cases are now rising in one in five UK areas.

Prof Van-Tam, who labelled the figures "sobering", said they suggest some people are now “relaxing”.

He urged: “Please don’t be tempted to think: ‘One home visit might be alright now, the weather’s getting better, gonna to be a nice weekend, one small gathering in the house won’t really matter.’ I’m afraid it does and the data speak for themselves.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jonathan Van-Tam talks during the Covid-19 briefing at 10 Downing Street on February 26, 2021 in London, England. Earlier today it was revealed that the next group to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will be those in the 40-49 age group, leading to criticism from police and teaching unions who argue that key workers should be prioritised.  (Photo by Matt Dunham - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam: 'It is too early to relax.' (Matt Dunham/pool/Getty Images)

“My key message is: this is going very well but there are some worrying signs that people are relaxing, taking their foot off the break at exactly the wrong time.”

As he compared the current situation to the football team in danger of losing 4-3 having led 3-0, Prof Van-Tam pleaded: “Do not wreck this now.

“It is too early to relax, just continue to maintain discipline and hang on just a few months. Do not wreck this now, we are so close.”

Watch: How England will leave lockdown