Lockdowns in the UK could be eased at the end of February as the imminent approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, produced by AstraZeneca, will permit the vaccination of as many as 15 million people, the Mail on Sunday reported.
The country’s health service would no longer be at risk of being overwhelmed by virus cases once that threshold is met, the newspaper said. The vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca will be approved shortly and rolled out across the UK from January 4, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
The UK became the first country in Western Europe to begin vaccinations, when it started using the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE shot on December 9. More than 600,000 people have been vaccinated. The government is hoping 2 million people will get a first dose of one of the vaccines within two weeks of the January roll-out of the new shot, the Telegraph said.
The country has been one of the hardest hit in Europe with more than 70,000 deaths, the most in the region after Italy. Much of the UK has been moved into the harshest Tier 4 restrictions, which prohibit household mixing and forced the closing of pubs, restaurants and many businesses, after the discovery earlier this month of a more contagious strain of the virus.