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UK records another 15,539 coronavirus cases with 397 deaths

Coronavirus vaccines will be rolled out to care homes and GP surgeries within a fortnight, after regulators confirmed that doses can be transported in refrigerated bags. Pictured, Matron May Parsons (right) talks to Heather Price (left) during training in the Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic at the University Hospital in Coventry

LONDON, Dec. 5 : Another 15,539 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 1,705,971, according to official figures released Saturday.

The coronavirus-related deaths in Britain rose by 397 to 61,014, the data showed.

The figures came as Britain’s chief medical officers warned Saturday that the coming winter would be “especially hard” for the health service due to coronavirus despite hopes brought by vaccines.

“Although the very welcome news about vaccines means that we can look forward to 2021 with greater optimism, vaccine deployment will have only a marginal impact in reducing numbers coming into the health service with COVID over the next three months,” the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said in a letter to colleagues.

The experts urged the public to show restraint and self-discipline, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

“The actions and self-discipline of the whole population during lockdowns and other restrictions have helped reduce the peak and in most parts of the four nations, hospital numbers are likely to fall over the next few weeks, but not everywhere,” they said.

“The social mixing which occurs around Christmas may well put additional pressure on hospitals and general practice in the New Year and we need to be ready for that,” they added.

England is currently under a new three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions that replaced the month-long national lockdown in England which ended Wednesday.

Under the new system, shops will be allowed to re-open across England, giving a Christmas bonanza to the struggling retail sector, but all bars and restaurants in the toughest Tier 3 areas will remain closed. The system put about 98 percent of England into the highest Tier 2 and 3.

However, between Dec. 23 to 27, up to three different households are allowed to meet in a private home, a place of worship or outdoor public spaces.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines.