UK identifies 1.7 million more people at high Covid-19 risk

More than 15.5 million people in the UK have had their first dose of the vaccine.
More than 15.5 million people in the UK have had their first dose of the vaccine.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - The UK government identified an extra 1.7 million people in England at serious risk of coronavirus after using a new computer model that takes into account age, ethnicity and body mass index as well as medical conditions.

Of the new cohort, those over 70 have already been invited for vaccination and 820,000 adults will now be prioritised for the shot "as soon as possible," the Department of Health said Tuesday (Feb 16) in a statement.

The findings expand to almost 4 million the number of people asked to "shield" from the virus by staying at home, as the government strives to protect Britons from a pandemic that's already cost more than 117,000 lives. All those shielding have been asked to do so until the end of March.

More than 15.5 million people in the UK have had their first dose of the vaccine, and it is now being rolled out to people under 70 and those with certain clinical conditions.

Road map

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes the vaccine roll-out will help unlock national lockdown restrictions that have been in place since early January. Speculation is growing in Westminster over which sectors will see curbs eased and when, ahead of his statement on a "road map" on Feb 22.

The Times reported that authorities in England are preparing for nationwide "surge" testing that will see hundreds of thousands of rapid lateral flow tests posted to homes and workplaces every day.

Restrictions on leisure and hospitality will be eased at four-weekly intervals, starting with some hotels in April, followed by pubs and restaurants in May, according to the Daily Mail.

British companies are considering employment contracts requiring staff to have vaccinations, the Financial Times reported, as the government said it was "up to businesses" if they wanted to demand proof.

Every adult in the UK could get both doses of the vaccine by August, the head of the UK's vaccine taskforce told Sky News.

The government's new "predictive risk" model was developed following research at Oxford University that looked at the factors involved with Covid-19 deaths in the first wave.

It will help the National Health Service to identify "further individuals who may be at high risk from Covid-19 due to a combination of personal and health factors," Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, said in the statement.

Positive impact Officials reported evidence Tuesday that the vaccination programme is having an impact. A report from the Office for National Statistics showed people over 80 years old - one of the highest priority groups - were the most likely to test positive for Covid antibodies in England.

The analysis estimated that 40.9 per cent of people aged 80 or older had antibodies during the four-week period leading to Feb 1, "most likely due to the high vaccination rate in this group."