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COVID-19: Expedite vaccination or deaths will surge, researchers warn

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Deaths from COVID-19 in England in the first half of 2021 could exceed those seen in the whole of 2020 unless the vaccination programme is vastly increased and a national lockdown implemented—with educational settings closed for at least a month—researchers have warned.

In a preprint released on 24 December, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine used modelling to compare the effects of varying COVID-19 restrictions on the virus spread, hospital and intensive care admissions, and deaths from 15 December 2020 to 30 June 2021. The model took account of the new variant spreading rapidly in southern England, which it estimated to be 56% more transmissible than non-variant COVID-19.

The study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, said that control measures similar to the November national lockdown would be “unlikely to reduce the effective reproduction number to less than 1, unless primary schools, secondary schools, and universities are also closed.” It added that it would be necessary to “greatly accelerate vaccine rollout to have an appreciable impact in suppressing the resulting disease burden.”

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Source: BMJ, 29 December 2020

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