Chile shows quick COVID vaccine rollout does not mean lockdowns end: UK official

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LONDON (Reuters) - The experience of Chile shows that a quick COVID-19 vaccine rollout is not necessarily enough to avoid lockdowns, England’s Chief Medical Officer said on Monday, saying a steady and cautious approach to easing restrictions was important.

Britain has given a first vaccine dose to over 31.5 million people, leading some in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party to urge him to end England’s lockdown more quickly.

But Chile, which also has one of the world’s quickest vaccination rates, has closed its borders and tightened an already strict lockdown.

Chris Whitty said that Chile’s experience had contrasted with that of Israel, and it was unclear whether it was due to the timings of rollout, the vaccines used, interactions with coronavirus variants or other factors.

“We don’t yet know... 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, and those are two of the key ones,” he told a news conference.

“This is the reason we wants 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.”

Reporting by Kate Holton, writing by Alistair Smout; editing by Guy Faulconbridge