The NHS have announced that people aged 40 and over can now book an appointment for a coronavirus vaccine.

Text messages will now go out to 40 and 41-year-olds inviting them to book an appointment for a first dose of the jab. This is the third time in a week that the age for people to get a vaccination has been lowered.

Since the vaccination roll-out began in December last year, more than 34 million people have given at least one dose in England. More than 14 million people have now been fully vaccinated with their second dose.

NHS Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, said: “The rapid rollout of the NHS vaccination programme, the swiftest in Europe, is down to months of careful planning and sheer hard work by nurses, doctors and countless other staff supported by our volunteers”.

He went on to urge everyone to get the vaccination as soon as they were eligible. He said: “If you receive a text inviting you for your jab, please follow the instructions provided and book – it is simple, effective and provides vital protection against the virus”.

Deputy chief medical officer for England, Jonathan Van-Tam has given Matt Hancock his first dose of the vaccine

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, 42 received his first dose earlier this week. He was given the Oxford AstraZenica vaccine by deputy chief medical officer for England, Jonathan Van-Tam.

There are now over 1700 vaccination sites across the country. including mosques, museums and rugby grounds. According to the NHS it is estimated that the vast majority of the people in England live within 10 miles of at least one vaccination service.

Infection rates across the country have fallen significantly in recent weeks with Selby being the worst affected with 107 reported cases in 100,000 of the population.

Data from the week ending 11th April, showed that during that week Covid-19 was spreading more in Bradford than in any other part of the UK with 92.4 infections per 100,000 people in the previous seven days. The rate in Bradford has now dropped to 56 per 100,000.

Kirklees had also seen a significant drop in its reported figures, down to 71 and Leeds has reduced to 41 cases, per 100,000.

The North East is fairing even better with Darlington reporting 26 cases, Newcastle and South Tyneside both reporting 21 and Sunderland reporting 18 new cases, per 100,000.

The government have recently changed the way cases in England are reported. Cases that were identified using a lateral flow test have been removed if the person subsequently took a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test – for which swabs are sent to a lab for analysis – and tested negative within three days.

It is now thought the infection rate in the first peak last spring was much higher than was evident from the reported number of cases. Experts say testing capacity was too limited, at the time, to detect the true number of daily cases.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that while the UK continues to make progress against Covid, however the majority of scientific experts believe there will be another wave at some stage this year.

The major concern for the government appears to be the spread of variants of the virus. Public Health England have just announced that hundreds more cases of the Indian variant have been found after two further strains were formally identified.

PHE said the two strains from the same linage have been identified and classified as separate variants. This has now tripled the known cases of variants in England to 400. PHE said they did not believe that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that there had been any significant spread in this country and believed the vast majority of cases were linked to international travel.

Strategic response director at PHE, Susan Hopkins said: “Case numbers for both new variants under investigation remain low and investigations continue into links with international travel”.

In reassuring the public Ms Hopkins added: “There is no evidence of widespread community transmission or that these variants cause more severe disease or render the vaccines currently deployed any less effective.”

Although massive progress has been made with the vaccination programme in England it is likely that those in their thirties will have to wait a few more weeks before being invited to come forward.

People under the age of 30, who are the last cohort to be offered the jab, will be given either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, after officials said that this group should not be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine due to concerns about a very rare potential side effect in the form of an unusual type of blood clot.

Currently England is on track for the next stage of the lifting of lockdown on 17th May with the possibility of the easing of international travel, people being able to meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors, restaurants and other hospitality venues open indoors, and up to 30 people attending weddings or other life events.