Boris Johnson ‘anxious’ about ‘Indian’ variant spread in UK


Indian variant of Covid-19 threatens UK's roadmap out of lockdown - EasternEye

It has been designated a "variant of concern" by PHE as it is thought to be at least as transmissible as the variant detected in Kent previous year, known as B117, which is now dominant in the UK.

Surge testing has also been deployed in Sefton, after cases of the Indian variant were confirmed in the Formby area, as well as in parts of London.

As well as a reported plan of flooding hotspots with COVID jabs for all over-18s, additional measures being taken to combat the spread include surge testing in certain areas and the deployment of a vaccine bus to encourage uptake among those who are eligible.

The Prime Minister said there is "increasing concern" in the United Kingdom about the variant first identified in India. "We are anxious about it - it has been spreading", Johnson said, adding that there would be meetings later on Thursday to discuss what to do.

Thus it remains to be seen whether bringing forward the date of the second dose could help curb rising infections.

"At the moment we have no evidence that it escapes the vaccines or is more severe in its impact on people", he said. "At the moment I can see nothing that dissuades me from thinking we'll be able to go ahead on Monday and June 21 everywhere", he added, referring to further steps to ease lockdown.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) met on Thursday (13 May) to discuss the variant after cases in the United Kingdom nearly tripled in a week, rising from from 520 to more than 1,300.

She said: "There is no greater level of illness or mortality connected with these variants so we don't want people to panic".

"What they do is, they nearly 100 per cent prevent hospitalisation and serious illness".

He told the PA news agency: "B16172 seems to be slightly more transmissible and capable of outcompeting the B117 or B1351 (South African variant) to become the dominant variant in the UK".

At present, there is no evidence the B16172 variant is resistant to current vaccines.

In the same report, Sage concluded there was not enough data to say whether the variant was more deadly.

Wellingborough, Corby and South Northamptonshire all have more than double the national average cases per 1,000 people just days before restrictions are further relaxed under stage three of the government's roadmap.

The Government is looking at ways to "flex" the rollout of vaccines in the worst hit areas such as the North West, including vaccinating everyone in multi-generational households from 18-year-olds to grandparents, Mr Zahawi said.

The majority of cases of the India Covid strain are concentrated in the north-west of England, predominantly in Bolton, and in London.

Professor James Naismith from the University of Oxford, however, said not enough was known to say for sure whether the variant could frustrate the UK's vaccination programme.

He thinks local restrictions would not work to contain the spread of this variant.

"And as we were just hearing, there's quite a concentration of that in the north-west of England and there's a lot of traffic between the north-east of Wales and the north-west of England so we were considering a small number of further easements from Monday but have made a decision to hold back on those until we get the advice from Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) met yesterday, our own scientific advice which we'll receive imminently, just to make sure that we are continuing to take a precautionary approach in case the Indian variant is on the march, and therefore Wales would be vulnerable to it as well". But we'll take one step at a time.

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