Covid-19: UK Reaches Vaccination Target, Administers First Doses to 15M People
The United Kingdom said Sunday that it had reached its goal of giving at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot to the most vulnerable people in the country.
More than 15 million people, or 22% of the U.K. population, have received their first shot. This includes most people in the government’s top four priority groups – everyone over 75, frontline healthcare workers, and nursing home staff and residents. Over 537,000 of them have also received their second dose.
“Today we have reached a significant milestone,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a video message posted on social media on Sunday. “No one is resting on their laurels … We’ve still got a long way to go and there will undoubtedly be bumps in the road, but after all we’ve achieved, I know we can go forward with great confidence.”
We have vaccinated over 15 million people. This is an incredible UK-wide achievement.
Thank you to the scientists, factory workers, delivery drivers, NHS staff, volunteers and many more who made this astounding feat possible. pic.twitter.com/YOCFAywROA
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 14, 2021
The speedy vaccination drive is considered as one of few successes in the government’s handling of the pandemic, which has left the country of about 67 million people with a higher death toll and worse economic damage than many others.
Worst GDP decline in three decades
The UK’s economy suffered its biggest slump in more than three centuries last year. Gross domestic product fell by 9.9% over the course of 2020 in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics statement Friday.
The fallout from the pandemic, which led to the closure of shops and restaurants and devastated the travel industry, effectively erased all growth in Britain over the last 7 years and returned the economy close to the size it was in 2013.
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The slump was less severe than expected but still passed the 9.7% collapse experienced during the Great Depression in 1921. It is the worst annual drop since 1709, according to data from the Bank of England.
Although there were signs of a rebound in the final months of 2020. The economy was estimated to have expanded by 1% in Q4, a second consecutive quarter of growth following record growth in the third.
Britain’s decline is one of the worst recessions among major economies last year. Provisional estimates suggest Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, contracted by 5% last year while the European Union’s GDP is expected to have plunged 6.4%, according to Eurostat. The United States fared even better by comparison, with GDP decreasing by 3.5% from the prior year.
“Today’s figures show that the economy has experienced a serious shock as a result of the pandemic, which has been felt by countries around the world,” UK finance minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.
“While there are some positive signs of the economy’s resilience over the winter, we know that the current lockdown continues to have a significant impact on many people and businesses,” he said.
The new national lockdown in the United Kingdom, imposed on January 5, is expected to hit the economy hard in the first quarter of 2021. Disruption to EU-UK trade following the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 is also weighing on activity.
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But the rapid vaccination of people across the U.K. should ease Covid-19 restrictions and unleash an economic recovery, according to Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England.
“A decisive corner is about to be turned for the economy, too, with enormous amounts of pent-up financial energy waiting to be released, like a coiled spring,” Haldane wrote in the Daily Mail.
After achieving the phase one target, the country will now start administering vaccines from Monday to those aged between 65 and 69 and those clinically vulnerable to COVID-19, with almost 1.2 million already invited to book their jabs, the state-run National Health Service (NHS) said. Ministers have also pledged to vaccinate all above-50s by May and all adults by September.