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The UK appears to be in an enviable spot as a third wave of coronavirus infections sweeps across Europe. A swift launch of vaccines and weeks of lockdown to suppress what the continent calls the “English strain” has seen deaths and hospitalizations plummet.
However, concerns are mounting within the London government that progress could be undermined by any variant resistant to the vaccine and a poison. political dispute with the European Union over exports that could result in a dose deficit.
Jump in Infections on Britain’s doorstep could now be the first real global proof of whether a pacing vaccination program is enough to keep a country protected. It will also give an indication of whether it is sufficient to ensure that there are no setbacks in the reopening of the economy.
After a steady decline, Covid-19 infections across the UK are stagnating across the country and starting to rise among those under 19 after schools reopened this month. There is also the possibility of having to prioritize decreasing vaccine supplies on giving second doses to people after the UK decided to extend the interval between injections. That would mean that the younger end of the population will remain unvaccinated longer.
The UK has given 43% of the country at least one dose, or more than half of the adult population, compared to 9.6% in the European Union, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine tracker. That made Britain stand out for positive reasons after recording the highest death toll in Europe from Covid-19 and a series of government missteps.
But the UK is still in an “incredibly risky situation,” he said. Susan Michie, a behavioral scientist on the SAGE government scientific advisory committee. “We have a partially vaccinated population with still high levels of transmission, which means a lot of mutations, variants,” he said. “The more variants, the more likely there are variants that undermine the vaccination program.”
The third wave in Europe is mainly driven by the UK’s most contagious strain of the virus, but the South African and Brazilian versions account for up to 40% of all new cases in some regions of France, according to data submitted to the UK government. . by The Times newspaper.
Any increase in these new strains is very concerning because it is not yet clear how resistant they are to vaccines. “When a wave hits our friends,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on March 22. “I’m afraid it also reaches our shores.”
Politically, it is also a disaster. UK and EU officials are in talks about the best way to resolve a dispute over the exchange of vaccines after the bloc tightened restrictions on exports. That followed a temporary suspension of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine in some countries over concerns about side effects, which has undermined public confidence.
The UK government, in general, has tried to stay above the fray in public. Johnson has repeatedly said that all countries are “fighting the same pandemic.” The government does not want to lose “moral authority”, according to a minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But behind closed doors, there are fears in the government about what a blockade of vaccines from Europe would mean for Britain, especially as the UK faces a significant reduction in supply in April due to a delay in delivery of the India and the new test of a separate batch.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday that the tensions over the supply of AstraZeneca were partly due to the British vaccination strategy and suggested that the UK was blackmailing Europe. “You have wanted to massively vaccinate with a first dose and then you find yourself a little disabled for the second dose,” he said. “Europe does not have to pay the price for this policy.”
A senior EU official said the UK was “overcommitted” because it had launched so many first doses without securing supplies for second doses. That means the Johnson government now urgently needs the EU’s help, the official said.
The UK government says vaccine supplies remain safe and there is no threat to people receiving their second dose within 12 weeks.
There are also new shots in the pipeline. The Moderna Inc. The vaccine, made in the US, has been approved by the UK regulator and will launch in a few weeks. The Novavax Inc. shot, which will be made in the UK, is pending approval.
Having an ample supply of vaccines is vital to immunizing people under the age of 50, keeping cases low and preventing new variants from South Africa and Brazil from taking hold in the UK, he said. Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick School of Medicine. He noted an increase in the number of young people hospitalized in Brazil. “That is a concern and so I don’t think there is room for complacency.”
Read more: UK’s next Covid challenge could be public complacency
However, the government is under pressure to reopen the economy and give people a semblance of normalcy this summer. “If pubs, restaurants and the wedding industry don’t get back on track, people will lose their jobs and lose what brings them joy,” said Steve Baker, a senior MP for the ruling Conservative Party.
Johnson already admitted this week that vacations abroad “seem difficult at the moment,” another blow to the travel industry. He will set travel plans in early April, but privately those in government are pessimistic.
A UK official warned that if the British were allowed to go abroad this summer, it would be “insane”. “It’s like, ‘Hello new variants, come on in,’” the person said.
– With the assistance of Geraldine Amiel