Gareth Southgate has stepped up to lead a government campaign to persuade younger people to get a COVID vaccine and get their freedom back.
The England football manager, who led the Three Lions to the final of the Euros two weeks ago, has recorded a video in which he urges people to get vaccinated.
His plea is a massive boost for Boris Johnson’s attempts to persuade younger people to get a jab, after figures revealed uptake among young people in England is slowing.
Who is Gareth Southgate?
After his highly-praised leadership during the Euros, opinion polls have suggested the England boss is more trusted than leading politicians and even more popular than Winston Churchill.
In his video, the 50-year-old England manager, who won 57 caps as a player, says: “Hi – Gareth Southgate here.
“Just firstly wanted to say thank you for the support you gave the team this summer, but also to say look we know the last 18 months have been incredibly difficult for everybody.
“And there’s no doubt that the vaccination programme is our best route out of this problem, not only for us as a country but across the world.
“So I just wanted to say how important it is if you haven’t had your vaccine yet, to go and get it done.
“I know oldies like me have had both jabs so we can crack on with our lives, but for you younger ones especially it’s the chance for everything to open up, to get your freedom back.
“So much of that is going to rest on you having the vaccine.
“So, don’t put it off any longer, go and get it done, we can open everything up, we can protect the people we need to protect and you guys will get your freedom back. So, look forward to seeing you soon.”
Gareth Southgate appeared in a mural that reads ‘you did us proud’
Southgate’s appeal to young people to “get your freedom back” follows the prime minister’s controversial announcement on Monday that from September only those who have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be allowed entry to crowded venues such as nightclubs.
The England manager’s high profile intervention is highly significant, however, since it comes after health experts called on the government to recruit role models to help boost vaccination uptake among younger people.
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Adults over the age of 18 have been eligible for a vaccination against COVID-19 in England since 18 June. But according to the latest figures from Public Health England this week uptake of the vaccine in younger groups already appears to be levelling off.
Case rates are highest in people in their 20s and data from PHE on Thursday showed the age group had a seven-day infection rate of 1,154.7 per 100,000 people – or 1 in 100.
Vaccination rates are now rising only very slowly in each age group. More than 95% of people in England over the age of 80 have had their first dose, compared with 80.9% of people aged 45 to under 50, 62.8% of those aged 30 to under 35, and 58.4% of those aged 18 to under 25 years old.
The England manager has enjoyed massive popularity throughout the country both during and after the Euros, in which his team reached the final at Wembley, only to lose on penalties to Italy.
According to a poll by YouGov earlier this month, Southgate is considerably more popular than both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, both of whom supported the England team at Wembley during the tournament.
YouGov suggested 66% of adults surveyed had a favourable view of the England boss, with only 5% an unfavourable view. The numbers for the PM were 39% favourable and 54% unfavourable, with 26% and 55% for the Labour leader.
Another poll, by Opinium, suggested a 72% favorability rating for the England manager, with an unfavourable rating of 11%, compared to 65% and 22% for Sir Winston Churchill
Southgate’s leadership qualities were also hailed after England’s extra-time semi-final victory over Denmark by Sky Sports commentator and former Three Lions defender Gary Neville.
Speaking on ITV, he said: “The standard of leaders in this country the past couple of years has been poor. Looking at that man (Southgate), he’s everything a leader should be, respectful, humble, he tells the truth.”