'The most dangerous time': UK sees toughest virus threat yet
LONDON (AP) — The U.K. opened seven mass vaccination centers Monday as it moved into the most perilous moment of the COVID-19 pandemic, with exhausted medical staff reeling under the pressure of packed hospitals and increasing admissions.
England's chief medical officer, Dr. Chris Whitty, warned people to strictly follow measures to prevent the spread of the virus while they wait their turn for a vaccine shot. The government is trying to vaccinate some 15 million people by Feb. 15 — but Britain's National Health Service is reeling just treating those who are ill now.
“I think everybody accepts that this is the most dangerous time we’ve really had in terms of numbers into the NHS,’’ Whitty told the BBC.
People in the U.K. already face severe coronavirus restrictions but political leaders are considering tightening the rules further as a new, more transmissible variant of COVID-19 aggravates the health care crisis. Leaders want to vaccinate the country out of the crisis, but with hospitals under siege, they must persuade the public to take prevention methods more seriously.
"We don’t rule out taking further action if it’s needed, but it’s your actions now that can make a difference: Stay at home!” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said during a press conference Monday.
Britain, with over 81,000 dead, has the deadliest virus toll in Europe and the number of hospital beds filled by COVID-19 patients has risen steadily for more than a month. English hospitals are now treating 55% more COVID-19 cases than during the first peak of the pandemic in April.
“Everybody knows what they need to do. And I think that’s the key thing — minimize the number of contacts,” Whitty said.
England last week entered a third national lockdown that closed all...