British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday the UK was in a “race against time” to introduce COVID-19 vaccines as deaths hit record highs and hospitals run out of oxygen. His top medical advisor said the worst weeks of the pandemic are imminent.
A new, more communicable variant of the disease is now emerging in the population. One in 20 people in parts of London is now infected and threatens to overwhelm the National Health Service (NHS) as hospitals fill up with patients.
The number of deaths in the UK has risen to over 81,000 – the fifth highest official number in the world – while more than three million people have tested positive.
To get the pandemic under control and try to restore some level of normality by spring, the UK is launching its largest vaccination program to date. Around 15 million people are expected to be offered shots by the middle of next month.
“It’s a race against time because we can all see the threats to our NHS, the pressures it’s under, the demand in intensive care units, the pressures on ventilated beds and even the lack of oxygen in some areas,” Johnson said in a visit to a vaccination center in Bristol, south-west England.
“This is a very dangerous moment. The worst thing for us now is that we can successfully put in place a vaccination program to create any kind of complacency about the state of the pandemic.”
The government’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, previously said the situation would get worse.
“The next few weeks will be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers on the NHS,” he told BBC TV.
“Anyone who is not shocked by the number of people in the hospital who are seriously ill right now and who are dying in the course of this pandemic, in my opinion, has not understood this at all. This is an appalling situation,” he told BBC TV.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there were now more than 32,000 COVID-19 patients in hospital, far more than the roughly 18,000 hospitalized during the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in April.
The Johnson administration is putting its hopes in a mass vaccination program after the UK becomes the first country to approve vaccines developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer / BioNTech. It also approved Moderna’s shot last Friday.
The plan announced on Monday calls for two million shots a week to be fired at around 2,700 centers in England by the end of January to immunize tens of millions of people by the spring, and all adults will have a vaccine by the fall.
The first daily vaccination statistic found that nearly 2.3 million people had received their first doses of a COVID vaccine and nearly 400,000 had received a second dose to date.
Johnson said more had received the vaccine in the UK than any other European country, but admitted that vaccinating 15 million people in the four highest risk levels, including those over 70 and the frontline health workers, could be affected by Aug. February was “a big question”. .
“We believe it is achievable, we are going to throw absolutely anything on it to get it done,” he said.
Opposition leader Keir Starmer, who has repeatedly accused Johnson of being too slow to respond to the pandemic, said the prime minister’s indecision cost lives and worsened the economic impact
Ministers and health chiefs have asked the UK to stay home fearing some people are not being strict enough with the rules and fear that the virus will spread in supermarkets.
Hancock said support bubbles, where households can “blow” with another person if they are individuals or meet other criteria, would be maintained, but the rules for training with another person could be restricted.
“Where we have to tighten it, we will,” said Johnson of the rules.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)