Great Britain

UK must DOUBLE daily Covid vaccines to lift lockdown by May

BRITS could get back to normality by May - if the current Covid vaccination rate is doubled, new analysis has shown.

At the current rate, lockdown restrictions could still be in place by mid-September, according to the latest modelling.

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But by ramping up the vaccine roll out to 600,000 jabs a day, almost all restrictions could be lifted in the next four months, the report said.

The paper, from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI), found ramping up jabs could see a a return to Tier 3 by next month.

The majority of the country could even be moved into Tier 1 by the start of April, with a return to unbridled freedom by mid-May.

It would be four months earlier than the Government's current target of offering every adult in the country a vaccine by September, the report says.

DOUBLE UP

But NHS England data showed that there were more than 300,000 people given inoculations on Tuesday, with 2,989 of those second jabs.

It means the current rate would have to double in speed to meet the TBI's recommendation.

Mr Blair, writing the foreword to Thursday's report, said the ability to use test and trace had "collapsed" due to the new Covid-19 variant, which transmits more easily, sending "cases rocketing again".

"So now the choice is: mass lockdown or mass vaccination," said the ex-Labour leader.

"The UK Government is ramping up vaccination, and this is excellent news.

"There is acceptance that the only constraint should be the supply of vaccines.

"This paper shows what the path back to normality might look like and the difference that accelerating the vaccination programme would make.

"It is this which is imposing huge urgency and a scramble for vaccines worldwide.

"The faster we vaccinate, the sooner we end lockdown and prevent further mutations."

'RATE IS POSSIBLE'

The institute said its discussions with vaccine manufacturers suggested that production was possible at a rate that could support issuing 600,000 jabs every 24 hours.

Ministers have stressed in recent days, as the vaccination rate fell, that supply was the problem, not distribution.

The Home Secretary on Wednesday said the UK would see "inconsistencies" in vaccine supply due to changes being made at supply plants.

Priti Patel told ITV: "I think it was inevitable that the likes of Pfizer, AZ (AstraZeneca) are reconfiguring their supply chains and their ability to process and manufacture the vaccine - demand is just enormous and beyond comprehension.

"There are going to be inconsistencies in terms of vaccine rollout and we are seeing that."

The Cabinet minister said the supply hiccups did not mean the target of vaccinating those in the top four priority groups, which includes all those aged 80 and over, by mid-February would be missed.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters that more jabs could be delivered by the NHS if supply improves.

He said : "Supply is the limiting factor, as the vaccines minister (Nadhim Zahawi) made clear earlier this week, which is why we continue to work closely with the companies.

"You've had representatives from the NHS say they are ready and can deliver more vaccine if we are able to increase the supply.

"That is exactly what we are doing over the course of this month and into next month."

It comes after a separate major new study found that the current national lockdown has failed to drive numbers down.

Prevalence of coronavirus across England increased by 50 per cent between early December and the second week of January, according to the latest React study from Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori.

More than 142,900 volunteers were tested in England between January 6 and 15 - and showed that one in 63 people were infected.

The report, which researchers said does not yet reflect the impact of the national lockdown, also showed there were "worrying suggestions of a recent uptick in infections".

Gavin Williamson says lockdown has been 'having an impact' after Imperial College study found it's failed to drive down Covid cases

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