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‘Pivotal moment’ as Britain set to roll out AstraZeneca vaccine

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was poised to introduce tougher coronavirus restrictions in England at midnight on Monday, in a new national lockdown to try to reduce a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Johnson was due to deliver a televised address to the nation at 2000 GMT.

Johnson’s government earlier on Monday touted a scientific “triumph” as Britain became the first country in the world to start vaccinating its population with Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot.

But as the country grapples with the world’s sixth highest death toll and cases repeatedly reaching highs, Britain’s four chief medical officers and the medical director of England’s health service said the alert level should move to its highest.

New measures aimed at reducing pressure on the health service would include school closures for most pupils in England and requiring people to work from home unless they are unable to do their jobs remotely, in what would be similar to the lockdown introduced early on in the pandemic in March.

On a happier note, dialysis patient Brian Pinker on Monday received the first Oxford/AstraZeneca shot outside of a trial.

“I am so pleased to be getting the COVID vaccine today and really proud that it is one that was invented in Oxford,” said the 82-year-old retired maintenance manager, just a few hundred metres from where the vaccine was developed.

But even with the vaccines being rolled out, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are rising.

More than 75,000 people in the United Kingdom have died from COVID-19 within 28 days of a positive test. A record 58,784 new cases of the coronavirus were reported on Monday.

“We are not confident that the NHS (National Health Service) can handle a further sustained rise in cases and without further action there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days,” the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the medical director of NHS England said in a statement.

Moving ahead of Johnson, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier on Monday imposed the most stringent lockdown for Scotland since last spring. Read from source….