Britain’s minister for vaccinations on Wednesday promised the drive would speed up dramatically to inoculate nearly 14 million people in the coming weeks, as lawmakers were set to back an England-wide lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged that the most vulnerable—including those over 80 and in care homes—will get a first dose by mid-February.
“My absolute focus is to get to 13.9 million,” vaccines deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC radio.
“I’m confident the NHS (National Health Service) has a plan and we will meet that target,” he said.
“You will see a massive increase in the numbers,” he said, with the public able to get shots at national vaccination centres opening soon, as well as in hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and community pharmacies.
The House of Commons has been recalled and will vote retroactively on the latest restrictions, which took legal effect overnight and could remain in force until March 31.
However, the government says it plans to review the lockdown including the closure of schools and non-essential shops in mid-February.
Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock were to speak to MPs ahead of the vote, while Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will give more detail on how children will be assessed after he cancelled summer exams including for university aspirants.
There has been discontent from lockdown sceptics among some members of Johnson’s ruling Conservatives. But MPs were expected to back the restrictions after the main Labour opposition party offered its support.
The measures aim to stem a surge in cases of a new variant of the coronavirus, with the Office for National Statistics saying that around one in 50 people in England were infected last week. In London, the figure rises to one in 30.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also closed schools and implemented lockdowns.
A further 60,916 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours across Britain on Tuesday, while the number of people in hospital was now 40 percent higher than at the April peak last year.
So far, over 1.3 million people have received a first dose of vaccine, Zahawi said.
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