Professor John Edmunds says the Government’s new travel restrictions may not help to keep the new strain out (Picture: POOL/AFP via Getty Images/EPA/Reuters)
An expert has claimed the ‘super Brazilian Covid strain’ is likely already inside the country, as Boris Johnson is urged to increase his 15 million mid-February vaccine target.
The UK has recorded 11 cases of a Brazilian coronavirus strain and at least 35 cases of a highly transmissible South African variant – but scientists have found no trace of a ‘concerning’ second Brazilian strain.
However, epidemiologist Professor John Edmunds says new travel restrictions may not help to keep the variant out as it is probably already inside the country.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘In terms of the South African one, we had imported cases already by the time we put in additional restrictions for South African travellers.
‘For the Brazilian one… I don’t think there is evidence that we’ve imported cases of the Manaus strain, as far as I’m aware at least, but it is likely that we probably have quite honestly.
‘We are one of the most connected countries in the world so I would find it unusual if we hadn’t imported some cases into the UK.’
The Government has set a target of vaccinating 15 million of the most vulnerable people by mid-February.
Travellers arrive at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, 16 January 2021 (Picture: EPA)
Resident Annie Innes, 90, receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Abercorn House Care Home in Hamilton, western Scotland, on December 14, 2020 (Picture: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
But Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth says ministers need to go ‘further and faster’ as experts agree the 15 million goal will not be a problem.
Speaking to BBC Question Time, Mr Ashworth said: ‘Everyone I’ve spoken to who understands what’s happening with vaccination seems to think they will meet this target.
‘So I think they will meet that target, but they need to go further and faster.
‘Because if we were able to vaccinate just under 30 million people, we would reduce hospitalisations and deaths by 99%, and we should be targeting that now.’
A total of 3,559,179 people have now received their first Covid vaccine dose – more than the 3,357,361 cases officially reported in the country since the pandemic hit.
It comes as UK scientists warn the second wave of the pandemic is set to be double the size of the first.
The number of people currently in hospital with coronavirus is higher than it ever has been before during the pandemic.
Prof Edmunds has cautioned against removing coronavirus restrictions – even after the Government vaccinates 15 million.
A health worker fills a syringe with a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Appleton Village Pharmacy (Picture: REUTERS)
He said: ‘I think it would be a disaster if we removed restrictions in, say, the end of February when we have gone through this first wave of the vaccination.
‘First of all vaccines aren’t ever 100% protective, and so even those that have been vaccinated would be still at some risk.
‘Secondly, it is only a small fraction of the population who would have been vaccinated and if you look at the hospitalisations at the moment, about half of them are in the under 70s, and they are not in the first wave to be vaccinated.
‘If we relaxed our restrictions we would immediately put the NHS under enormous pressure again.’
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