UK promises sprint to vaccine finish line

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London (AFP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday the coronavirus marathon has turned into a hopeful sprint to vaccinate millions of people in the coming weeks, but warrants another lockdown to relieve hospitals in crisis.

Hurriedly recalled lawmakers were to vote retrospectively on the lockdown after it went into effect across England overnight, forcing schools to close this week under a stay-at-home order, while the other nations of the UK have imposed similar restrictions.

Johnson said a variant strain of the virus that emerged in south-east England last month was spreading with “frightening ease and speed”, exacerbating one of the world’s worst death rates.

Official data shows that one in 50 people in England was infected last week, rising to one in 30 in London, and many hospitals say they are inundated with Covid-19 patients.

“It is inevitable that the facts will change and we have to change our response,” Johnson said in the House of Commons, noting that the lockdown would remain in effect until March 31 but would be reviewed in mid-February.

By then, the government plans to have administered a first dose of the vaccine to approximately 14 million people, including all people over the age of 80, residents of nursing homes and all primary care physicians at National Health. Service (NHS).

Britain was the first country to start rolling out vaccines last month with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and this week began injections of a homemade vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.

So far, more than 1.3 million people have received a first dose of either vaccine across the UK, and the government is delaying follow-up doses to spread as much protection as possible around the population.

– Flight tests –

“After last year’s marathon, we are indeed now in a sprint, a race to vaccinate the most vulnerable faster than the virus can reach them,” said Johnson, who nearly died from Covid-19. ‘last year.

He pointed out that Britain, which has now completely left the European Union, had vaccinated more people than the rest of Europe combined.

“But if we are to win this race for our people, we need to give our army of vaccinators as much head start as possible. ”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was also due to speak to MPs ahead of Wednesday’s vote, while Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will give more details on how children will be assessed after canceling final exams. year, including for university applicants.

There has been discontent on the part of lockout skeptics among some members of Johnson’s ruling Tories.

But MPs were expected to back the restrictions after the main opposition Labor party offered support.

However, Labor leader Keir Starmer said the deteriorating situation was not just ‘bad luck’, again accusing Johnson of indecision after a series of political U-turns last year and this month. , including waiting to close schools until the new term has already started.

He also asked why the government had not yet imposed mandatory pre-flight tests on airline passengers coming to Britain, after other mutant strains also emerged in South Africa and Denmark.

“It is vital to protect this country from the readmission of this virus from abroad … We will continue to take all necessary measures,” replied Johnson, without specifying specific measures.

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