Chile virus surge shows vaccine rollout may not end lockdowns, says Chris Whittyavril 6, 2021
More than 31.5 million people across the UK have now been given at least one jab leading many people to demand a more rapid return to normality.
Prof Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said the country offered evidence that inoculation on its own may not be a silver bullet in the fight against the deadly bug – and that new lockdowns could till be required in future.
“We absolutely need to learn from those countries that are far ahead of us in terms of or alongside us in terms of vaccine rollout,” he said during Monday’s Downing Street news conference.
And he added: “This is the reason we want to do things in a steady way because the assumption that just because you vaccinate lots of people, then the problem goes away, I think Chile is quite a good corrective to that.”
Some 20 per cent of the South Amercian nation’s 19 million population have now had two doses – a figure second only to Israel – in a programme that has been widely praised around the world.
But the country has, in the last week, also recorded 49,542 new Covid-19 cases – the highest weekly levels since the start of the pandemic. Intensive care beds are said to be scare in major cities, while reports suggest one hospital in Valparaiso has run out of space in its morgue and is now storing bodies in the hallways.
Doctors say that the government, led by President Sebastián Piñera, has been too quick to lift restrictions with schools reopening and Chileans given permission to travel domestically from early March.
But other reasons for the new wave have not been ruled out, with one major concern being that a particular variant may be effectively evading the vaccine.
Prof Whitty said: “Is this due to vaccines used? Is this due to the timing of when things have actually been rolled out? Is it due to particular interactions with other variants? We don’t yet know.”
The warning came as Boris Johnson said that, in terms of the UK, the data suggested everything was on track to stick to the so-called road map to normality which will next see non-essential shops, hairdressers and outdoor hospitality open on Monday.