Britain is set to expand the rollout of its coronavirus vaccine program by offering jabs to those over the age of 70 in areas where those deemed to be the most vulnerable have already received their first dose.
More than 3.8 million people across the UK — more than 5% of the population — have already received their first dose of vaccine.
The early phase of the vaccination program has been focused on the most vulnerable groups — those over the age of 80, residents in nursing homes and their carers, and staff in hospitals.
Britain is also opening another 10 mass vaccination centers this week. A pilot program to provide 24-hour vaccinations will commence in London hospitals by the end of January.
Britain’s vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said the normal daytime slots work “much more conveniently” for those over the age of 80 but that nighttime appointments may be handier for those in lower age groups.
Britain, which has Europe’s highest virus-related death toll at nearly 90,000, is aiming to have offered a first dose of vaccine to the four groups deemed most vulnerable to covid-19 by mid-February.
The UK has also now closed its travel corridors until at least 15 February to protect against “as yet unidentified new strains” of Covid.
After the top four priority groups, the next five groups include people aged 50 and over and those aged between 16 and 64 with underlying health conditions.
Zahawi also said that he expected to see a “gradual” easing in coronavirus restrictions, potentially starting about two or three weeks after the most vulnerable groups had been vaccinated and had begun to receive protection from the jabs.
He said any lifting would be via England’s previous tiered system, but added there were “lots of caveats” as it was not yet known what impact the vaccine would have on transmission.
A further 298,087 people received their first dose of the vaccine on Saturday, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said half of all those aged 80 and over had received at least one vaccine dose so far.