Vaccines have reversed the fortunes of Covid hotspot Bolton and shown it is safe to end lockdown on June 21, according to its council leader.
David Greenhalgh said the jabs helped Bolton cope with a case surge by severing the link between infections and hospitalisations, ensuring the NHS was not overwhelmed as rates rocketed to the highest in the country.
Infections have now dropped and even at their recent high point last month there were only 49 Covid patients in hospital – a third of their previous peak of 162 in November.
Daily infections there hit a high of 296 in November, which coincided with a peak in daily Covid hospital admissions of 37.
Army medics give Covid vaccinations to patients at a pop-up vaccination centre in Bolton
In contrast, as daily infections hit a similar level of 284 last month, Covid hospitalisations never exceeded 14.
There are currently 11 Covid patients on ventilators in Bolton – half the pandemic peak of 22 in April 2020.
Only two people have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test in Bolton within the past week.
But there were 55 deaths in the week to April 17 last year, with 14 on a single day. Bolton has had fewer than ten Covid deaths a week since March 13 this year.
Mr Greenhalgh said it is because vaccines are stopping people from catching the virus or limiting the extent of any illness.
Vaccines have reversed the fortunes of Covid hotspot Bolton and shown it is safe to end lockdown on June 21, according to its council leader. Pictured: Army medics at a vaccination centre in Bolton
Patients now being admitted to hospital with Covid are typically younger, and the vast majority have not been vaccinated, he added.
His optimism is shared by Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, who said the situation in Bolton should give other areas hope.
Mr Hopson said: 'If Bolton has gone through its complete cycle and if other areas follow Bolton, the view from the hospital there was that they were able to cope with the level of infections.'
Infection rates in Bolton peaked at 452.8 per 100,000 people in May, compared with a national average at the time of 23.1.
Testing helped identify areas where infections were rising fastest. It meant officials, with some help from the Army, could encourage uptake of vaccines at pop-up clinics.
Mr Greenhalgh, a Conservative, said: 'There hasn't been the hospitalisations and people presenting with serious illness.'
He said only 'one or two' patients admitted to hospital with Covid had received both doses of vaccine and they had been of 'considerable age' with underlying health conditions.
Mr Greenhalgh urged Boris Johnson to continue with the next stage of his roadmap out of lockdown on June 21.
He said: 'All the evidence points to the vaccine holding up and Bolton has shown what can be done.
'Businesses must now be given the opportunity to reopen and to be able to recoup some of their lost income.'