The race against time for United Kingdom may have begun as the nation is undergoing a third wave of coronavirus infections driven by the Delta variant - first found in India, an expert said.
UK will now witness tough competition between the vaccines and the highly transmissible Delta variant, Professor Adam Finn, advisor on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) said on Saturday.
On Friday, for the first time in four months, United Kingdom recorded 11,007 new Covid-19 cases in 24 hours, with the emergence of the Delta variant. The fresh surge has pushed the figure above 10,000 for the first time since late February.
Pointing out the rise in cases, although at a slower pace, Professor Finn said, "It's going up, perhaps we can be a little bit optimistic it's not going up any faster, but nevertheless it's going up, so this third wave is definitely underway."
UK will have to vaccinate its population fast against the deadly virus in order to prevent spike in infection and deaths, which implies the clock is ticking for the nation with the arrival of Delta variant.
"We can conclude that the race is firmly on between the vaccine programme, particularly getting older people's second doses done, and the Delta variant third wave," Professor Fin said, reported PTI.
Alongside, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said he was very confident that he would be able to lift remaining coronavirus restrictions on his new target date of 19 July, based on the most recent data but was forced to delay the opening-up plan.
"I am very confident that we'll be able to go through with step four of the roadmap on the timetable that I've set out with treating 19 July, as I've said, as a terminus date," PM Johnson had said.
The government has now delayed the planned lifting of remaining social and economic restrictions until 19 July amid a rise in cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant.
As per the latest figures, around eight in 10 adults have received their first dose while more than half have had their second dose. The reliance on vaccine is seen a as vital in the fight against the highly transmissible Covid-19 variant.
However, Professor Finn stated that he is not confident about the vaccine strategy defeating Delta variant. However, it may help the UK fight the outbreak in the third wave, he said.
"No, I don't feel confident, but I think there's some grounds for optimism. The latest ONS [Office for National Statistics] figures continue to show a rise, but that rise has not accelerated quite as much as I'd feared over the last week," he said.
"So, the race is on. The sooner we can get, particularly second doses, into older people, the less of a hospitalisation wave we'll see this time around. That's the critical thing, that's what's grounded us all in the past, and if we've managed to protect enough older people that we can avoid a great big surge of hospitalisations and deaths, then things will be able to move back towards normal," Professor Finn said.
The latest ONS figures show that one in every 540 people is infected, with the Delta variant now the dominant strain of the deadly virus circulating in the country and accounting for almost all infections.
Surge testing is being rolled out in further parts of England, including south London, to track the spread of the growing Delta variant.
Britain has recorded almost 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe.