The United Kingdom is vaccinating 200,000 people a day against the novel coronavirus.

Britain is attempting to ramp up immunisation to two million a week to cover the most vulnerable by mid-February, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday.

“At the moment we’re running over 200,000 people being vaccinated every day,” he told Sophie Ridge on Sky News. “We’ve now vaccinated around a third of the over-80s in this country, so we are making significant progress, but there’s still further expansion to go. This week we are opening mass vaccination centres.”

With a highly transmissible new variant of the virus surging across Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has shuttered the economy and is rushing out vaccines in a bid to stem the spread of the pandemic.

Britain has the world’s fifth-highest official death toll from COVID-19 at nearly 80,000, and the 1,325 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive test on Friday surpassed the previous daily record toll from last April.

“Our hospitals are under more pressure than at any other time since the start of the pandemic, and infection rates across the entire country continue to soar at an alarming rate,” Johnson said in a statement.

“The NHS (National Health Service) is under severe strain and we must take action to protect it, both so our doctors and nurses can continue to save lives and so they can vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as we can.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, from the opposition Labour Party, said hospital beds in the capital would run out within the next few weeks because the spread of the virus was “out of control”.

“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point,” Khan said.

The designation of “major incident” is usually reserved for attacks or grave accidents, notably those likely to involve “serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or national security”.

London’s last “major incident” was the Grenfell Tower fire in a high-rise residential block in 2017, when 72 people died.

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