UK on virus 'home straight': Govt minister

AAP
More than 3.5 million people have now been vaccinated against the coronavirus in Britain.
Camera IconMore than 3.5 million people have now been vaccinated against the coronavirus in Britain.

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the UK is "nearly on the home straight" in the fight against COVID-19 as 324,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered in the space of 24 hours.

More than 3.5 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a vaccine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, as he hailed those helping the "fantastic national effort".

Two vaccines have been rolled out in the UK, with a third - developed by Moderna - also approved for use.

"We can see the way out of this pandemic. We are nearly on the home straight," Hancock said in the Sunday Express.

"After months of detailed preparations, rigorous scientific scrutiny and an extraordinary amount of patience, we are rolling out two highly effective vaccines, with a third coming in spring and others progressing through clinical trials.

"We're rolling it out to as many vulnerable people as possible and we expect tens of millions of people to be vaccinated by the spring."

Hancock urged the public to commit to "three pledges" to support the rollout.

"Everyone has a part to play in this national effort - to protect our NHS (National Health Service), our loved ones and other people's loved ones too," he said.

The health minister's plea came as another 1,295 deaths in the UK were reported on Saturday, the third-highest daily total since the pandemic began, but the lowest number of lab-confirmed cases this year was reported - 41,346.

The figures will be seen as a sign that infections may be levelling off or falling as a result of the lockdown measures, though scientists believe the peak in deaths will come later.

Ten further mass vaccination centres will open in England this week with more than a million over-80s invited to receive their coronavirus jab.

NHS England said the new centres join the seven existing mass vaccination sites across the country, alongside a thousand GP-led surgeries and more than 250 hospitals already providing jabs.

The UK is preparing to suspend all quarantine-free travel into the UK on Monday in a bid to keep out new coronavirus variants.

The new policy means all arriving passengers will need to self-isolate for 10 days, or receive a negative result from a coronavirus test taken at least five days after they enter the UK.

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