LONDON • Britain must vaccinate two million people a week to avoid a third wave of the coronavirus outbreak, a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has concluded.
The country reported a daily high of 41,385 new Covid-19 cases on Monday. There were 357 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test. Overall, it has recorded more than 71,000 Covid-19 deaths and over 2.3 million infections.
"The most stringent intervention scenario with tier 4 (restrictions) England-wide and schools closed during January and two million individuals vaccinated per week, is the only scenario we considered which reduces peak ICU (intensive care unit) burden below the levels seen during the first wave," the study said.
It added: "In the absence of substantial vaccine roll-out, cases, hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths in 2021 may exceed those in 2020."
An accelerated uptake of two million vaccinated a week "is predicted to have a much more substantial impact", according to the study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed.
Responding to the study, a Health Department spokesman said that "over the coming weeks and months, the rate of vaccination will increase as millions more doses become available and the programme continues to expand".
The British government has secured early access to 357 million vaccines doses through agreements with several developers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his scientific advisers have said a variant of the coronavirus, which could be up to 70 per cent more transmissible, is spreading rapidly in Britain, though it is not thought to be more deadly or to cause more serious illness.
That prompted tight social mixing restriction measures for London and south-east England, while plans to ease curbs over Christmas across the nation were dramatically scaled back or scrapped altogether.
Mr Johnson had said last week that the spread of a new Covid-19 variant meant there would be difficult times ahead. And ministers have said it may be necessary to do more.
"This very high level of infection is of growing concern at a time when our hospitals are at their most vulnerable," said Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England.
Media reports over the weekend said Britain will roll out the vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca from Jan 4, with approval by the country's medical regulator expected within days.
Earlier this month, Britain became the first country in the world to roll out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The British government said last Thursday that 600,000 people had received the first dose of that vaccine.