Britain’s coronavirus vaccine campaign will operate around the clock seven days a week “as soon as we can,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged on Wednesday.
Johnson said “at the moment, the limit is on supply” of the vaccines rather than on the ability of the country’s health service to deliver jabs quickly.
The push to inoculate millions quickly comes as a more contagious variant of COVID-19 is sweeping across Britain and driving hospitals to their breaking points.
His comments came as the government said a further 1,564 more people had died to the virus over the previous 24 hours, the highest figure reported in Britain on a single day since the pandemic began.
The country has Europe’s highest COVID-19 death toll.
The U.K. is under an indefinite national lockdown to curb the spread of the new variant, with nonessential shops, gyms and hairdressers closed, most people working from home, and schools largely offering remote learning. But some are calling for even tougher measures.
- UK warns of hospital overload as coronavirus cases continue to spread at speed
- Coronavirus: Scotland’s six new rules for a tighter lockdown
During Prime Ministers Questions, Britain’s leader of the opposition, Kier Starmer said the Prime Minister had made many wrong moves:
“The last PMQs was on December 16. The prime minister told us then that we were seeing, in his words, a significant reduction in the virus. He told us then that there was no need for endless lockdowns and no need to change the rules about Christmas mixing.
Since then, since the last PMQs, 17,000 people have died of Covid, 60,000 people have been admitted to hospital and there has been over a million new cases. How did the prime minister get it so wrong and why was he so slow to act?” said Starmer.
The U.K. government has set a goal of delivering the first vaccine dose to everyone over age 70, as well as frontline health care workers, nursing home residents and anyone whose health makes them especially vulnerable to the virus, by the middle of February. That’s more than 15 million people.
Vaccinations will be given at hundreds of doctors’ offices and community pharmacies, 50 mass vaccination sites at convention centres and sports stadiums, as well as at 223 hospitals.
Britain is already using the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca and has approved one made by Moderna, but that one is not expected to be delivered until spring.
WATCH:Tadhg Enright’s report in the player above.