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NHS England has lowered the age required for people to get a coronavirus vaccine for the second time this week, having previously been dropped to 44. Those who are due to turn 42 by the 1st of July are also eligible to make an appointment under this latest phase of the rollout. Health Secretary Matt Hancock, 42, revealed the update on Twitter, expressing his excitement in being able to come forward for a vaccine himself. The new move will allow up to 1.3m more people to book their potentially life saving vaccine. Greater Manchester hospitals have recorded zero deaths in the past week, although infection rates have risen slightly in Salford and three other areas within the region. Despite schools, pubs and shops reopening, Salford has recorded only a marginal increase in cases but the public are being advised not to drop their guard and to continue to social distance and wear face masks where required. Free rapid home test kits are available from the majority of chemists and at hubs around the city and the public is being asked to take regular tests to prevent further spread of the virus. To date, the UK has vaccinated more than 33.7m people with their first dose and almost 12.9m with the second. Mr Hancock said that the rollout had gone very very well, adding that now we are able to go that little bit further. Social distancing guidelines still remain in place.
The health secretary dashed any hopes of a tier reduction for Salford this morning after opting to keep Greater Manchester firmly within Tier 3 restrictions. Earlier this week, NHS chiefs urged the government not to drop parts of the country already in Tier 3 to Tier 2, even as infection rates dropped in some areas. Greater Manchester Metro Mayor, Andy Burnham said on Wednesday that there was a clear case for restrictions to be lowered across the region, however, the health secretary and government have disagreed as rates have started to rise once more in some areas. Whilst addressing parliament this morning, Mr Hancock confirmed that Greater Manchester would remain in Tier 3, with the only places set to move down to Tier 2 being Bristol and North Somerset and additionally Herefordshire which will move to Tier 1 after successfully bringing its rate of infection to just 45 in 100,000 and still falling. Meanwhile case rates in other parts of the South have increased by 46% this week, prompting the government to move London and other areas into Tier 3. 'We must be vigilant and keep this virus under control,' Mr Hancock told MPs. 'We've come so far, we mustn't blow it now.' He added: 'This is a moment when we act with caution.' This now means that the country has 38 million people or 68% of the population living under Tier 3 restrictions from Saturday 19th December. The news will come as a blow to many businesses in the region who were counting on relaxed restrictions to allow them to open during the lucrative Christmas period. The hospitality industry taking the largest hit, with many restaurants and pubs looking at never recovering and being closed for good.