DONKEYS have returned to Blackpool beach for the first time since lockdown — as the UK rode high with another triple vaccine boost.
In the latest sign a great British summer is just around the corner, the seaside favourites are back entertaining families on the seaside.
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Owner Mark Ineson, 43, said: “The donkeys, like me, are champing at the bit to go and meet and entertain our customers again after a terrible 14 months.
“This week we finally returned to Blackpool beach and last Saturday it felt great for all of us to be working again.
“With foreign holidays looking difficult again this summer we hope holidaymakers flock to our amazing coast and support British businesses.”
The seaside town has also announced it will have an indoor party with 1,000 revellers to mark the annual switching-on of the town’s Illuminations.
The event was behind closed-doors last year but tickets are up for grabs for this year’s switch-on in the Tower Ballroom on September 3.
It will feature live music performances with an audience made up of winners of a free-to-enter ballot.
It comes as a major study reveals fully vaccinated adults are likely to see their risk of Covid death slashed by 97 per cent.
Separate Office for National Statistics data shows pandemic fatalities have plummeted by 98 per cent among over-70s since late January thanks to the immunisation blitz.
And a UK-made jab has been proven to more than halve the risk of being infected by the South African variant.
Experts believe the Novavax jab — which is expected to be used as part of the autumn Covid booster programme — will be even better at preventing serious illness and death.
Leading scientists said all the data was pointing towards June 21 being “the great day of liberation”.
Government adviser Professor Robert Dingwall, a public health expert at Nottingham Trent University, said: “In my view, we are absolutely on the path to ending all restrictions this summer.
'FEAR OF COVID'
“The only thing standing in our way is the willingness to do it and our continuing fear of Covid.
“What we need to be doing is dampening down levels of anxiety.
“We need to tell the public that we are on course to reduce Covid in the vaccinated population to a risk level of an ordinary respiratory virus, like cold or flu.”
Real-world data from nearly six million vaccinated adults in Israel shows two Pfizer jabs offer 95 per cent protection against Covid infection, while it cuts the risk of dying by 97 per cent.
Experts claim the findings from Israel’s immunisation blitz show high jab uptake “could offer a way out of the pandemic”.
The Lancet study showed the vaccine worked equally well across all ages.
However, researchers found a single dose cut infection risk only by 58 per cent and chances of Covid death by 77 per cent.
Health bosses say it is crucial for people to get their second shot to have maximum protection.
Prof Jonathan Ball, from Nottingham University, said: “These data confirm the Pfizer vaccine provides very high protection from serious Covid disease and death — even in older more vulnerable people.
“Importantly, the study shows two doses of the vaccine significantly increase levels of immunity and protection. This is why it is important that people get both doses.”
Nearly 16million UK adults have now had both Covid shots, while 34.8million have had their first dose.
Trials of the Novavax jab show it reduced the risk of infection from the South African variant by 51 per cent.
The UK has ordered 60million doses, which will be made in Teesside and will be available from late summer.
Dr Peter English, former chairman of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee, said: “Most vaccines are less effective at preventing mild disease than they are at preventing severe disease.
"So this vaccine could turn out to be much more effective at preventing hospital admissions and deaths.
“It would certainly be valuable to have a vaccine made using different technologies in our armamentarium.”
ONS data shows Covid deaths among the over-70s have plummeted by 98 per cent since the peak of the second wave.
A total of 166 older adults in England and Wales were killed by the pandemic in the week ending April 16.
It is down from 7,414 in the seven days to January 22.
Office for National Statistics data show fatalities also fell by more than 95 per cent in those aged 50 to 69.
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