South Lakes MP Tim Farron hailed the 'light at the end of the tunnel' after data from Oxford University showed its vaccine effectively cuts transmission.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed the new analysis from Oxford University as 'absolutely superb' after results showed the jab offers 76 per cent protection up to three months after the first dose and could reduce transmission.

Cutting transmission is the key to lifting the most severe restrictions of lockdown more quickly and means infection levels could come down faster than they would otherwise.

Mr Farron said: “This is really encouraging news.

“Protecting the most vulnerable from this deadly virus by vaccination is the top priority but the fact that it will slow down transmission is really important in preventing the virus from further mutations.

“That light at the end of the tunnel continues to get ever closer.”

MP: Tim Farron

MP: Tim Farron

There is still concern that new variants of coronavirus – which reduce the effectiveness of vaccines – could slow things down.

But with the news that vaccines against new coronavirus variants should be ready by October, the team behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab may have quashed that fear.

In a media briefing hosted by AstraZeneca, Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said work on designing a new vaccine could be completed rapidly.

His comments came after studies have shown that variants of coronavirus with the worrying E484K mutation could make vaccines less effective, though they are still expected to offer good protection against illness and severe disease.

The mutation is found in the South African variant of the virus, which has prompted surge-testing in eight postcode areas of England where community transmission is feared.

It has also been detected in Bristol in the variant first identified in Kent, and in Liverpool in a new variant of the original pandemic strain.

Prof Pollard said: "I think the actual work on designing a new vaccine is very, very quick because it's essentially just switching out the genetic sequence for the spike protein, for the updated variants.

"And then there's manufacturing to do and then a small-scale study.

"So all of that can be completed in a very short period of time, and the autumn is really the timing for having new vaccines available for use rather than for having the clinical trials run."