UK to trial 24-hour Covid vaccinations

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — Britain will make appointments for coronavirus vaccinations available 24 hours-a-day “as soon as we can”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday, reversing his opposition to the idea.

Johnson had just days ago brushed off calls from the main opposition Labour party for night-time opening of vaccine centers, arguing there was “no clamour” for it.

But the government has come under increasing pressure to speed up its vaccination program, and is now reported to be planning a pilot scheme to see if there is demand for the late-night jabs.

“We will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can,” he told parliament.

AstraZeneca, manufacturer of the main vaccine being used in the inoculation drive, is “imminently” scaling up to release two million doses of its vaccine per week in Britain, the firm’s chief executive said Wednesday.

“We’re absolutely on track to do that and therefore deliver tens of millions of doses in the first quarter of the year,” Tom Keith-Roach told parliament’s Science and Technology Committee.

Britain has so far given vaccinations to around 2.4 million of its most vulnerable citizens, and the government has set a target of 15 million by the middle of next month.

The country has been one of the hardest hit globally by the pandemic, with more than 83,000 people losing their lives after testing positive for the virus.

It is currently mired in its third, and worst, wave of the virus, registering record daily case numbers and death tolls blamed on a new strain of the disease.

Johnson recently announced a third national lockdown until at least mid-February, and is considering harsher measures still if the numbers keep rising.

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meanwhile on Wednesday announced the country would be stopping “click and collect” retail services, except for essentials goods, as part of a tightening of restrictions.

Other measures include a ban on serving takeaways inside, and the consumption of alcoholic drinks outside, calling the new rules a “regrettable but necessary means to an end”.

© Agence France-Presse