Britain declared a double victory in the battle against Covid-19 today.
Victory No.1 came in Europe’s outrageous vaccine war as the EU admitted they had made a mistake.
Cabinet Office boss Michael Gove announced the retreat by Brussels with the words: “The European Union has stepped back.”
Victory No.2 came as a top scientist announced that Britain’s massive vaccine roll-out – which today included jabs at Newmarket racecourse – appears to be reducing infections.
Professor Anthony Harnden said the latest data shows a single jab is effective in protecting both over-80s and young adults.
Today new Covid cases plunged to 23,275, a 31% drop in a week.
The cheering news followed an EU threat to block vaccines to Northern Ireland to stop them getting into mainland Britain.
The shock move would have breached the Brexit trade deal and the Good Friday peace agreement by introducing a hard border between the UK province and the Republic.
It could also have stopped UK residents getting their second jab of the Pfizer vaccine which we import from a plant in Belgium.
Mr Gove and EU vice-president Maros Sefcovic held peace talks.
The senior Tory said the EU now recognises it made a mistake and added: “We both agreed that we need a reset, that we need to put the people of Northern Ireland first.”
The climbdown began in Friday night talks between Boris Johnson and Commission president Ursula von der Leyen after furious backlashes in London, Dublin and Belfast.
Ms Von der Leyen tweeted: “We agreed there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines.”
That means supplies of Pfizer vaccine which the Government had already ordered from Belgium will not be disrupted.
The EU briefly threatened to restrict exports of vaccines to Britain following a row over supply to the Continent of UK-made AstraZeneca vaccines.
Whitehall sources said there had been no deal to give the EU any of our vaccine.
And Mr Gove stressed we will only help the EU once our own population is protected.
Professor Harnden of the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said preliminary data shows a single jab is lowering infections.
He said: “The preliminary data indicate a vaccine effect from the first dose seems to increase over time.
“It is possible that we may get stronger and better long-term protection by a delayed second dose.’
Deaths lag behind infections and another 1,200 were recorded today – but that is an 11% drop on last Saturday.
After the EU vaccine row appeared to be settled, Mr Gove said: “We’re confident we can proceed with our vaccine programmes as planned.”
Northern Ireland First minister Arlene Foster branded the EU threat “an incredible act of hostility”.
And ex-Cabinet minister Sir Liam Fox said: “It was like an episode of Carry On at the Commission except it wasn’t funny.”
Former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said: “It was an almost Trumpian act.”
Pfizer say they are still on track to deliver 40 million doses to Britain by the end of the year.
AstraZeneca is committed to supplying two million doses a week.
And boss Pascal Soriot said there was 100% protection against serious disease and hospitalisation after one jab.
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam also defended the one-dose policy.
He added: “If a vaccine is that good, antibody levels simply don’t drop away that fast. Evidence shows vaccinated individuals get almost complete protection after the first dose.”
People getting their first Oxford-AstraZeneca jab at a Pharmacy2U centre at Newmarket racecourse today included Lesley Mitchell, 75, and Wendy Millbank, also 75, who gave the thumbs up.
Public Health England’s immunisation boss Dr Mary Ramsay said people should stick to the same jab for their second dose.
But she added: “Where the same vaccine is not possible, it is better to give a second dose of another vaccine than not at all.”
A Health Department official told the Sunday People: “We remain confident in the continued supply of vaccine for the UK.”
The row blew up because the EU agreed to buy 400 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine but AZ reduced supplies by 60 per cent until April over production problems.
The EU Commission is responsible for buying vaccines while the 27 member states do the roll-out.
Each nation is free to buy from elsewhere not covered by the EU deal.
The EU has vaccinated only 2.5 per cent of its population compared to the UK’s 12.5 per cent and America’s 7.9 per cent.
France, with around the same population as Britain, had done only one million people.
But Brussels has ordered four billion doses from seven manufacturers, enough to vaccinate Europe’s 448 million population with a first dose more than four times over.