Fears Indian variant is 50% more transmissible and could derail lockdown plans Bedford News

Surge tests are underway in several parts of England (Photo: Getty Images)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that plans to end lockdown restrictions in England next month are under threat as the Indian variant of Covid continues to spread.

Scientists fear the variant may be 50% more transmissible than the Kent strain, which means coronavirus cases could increase rapidly if restrictions are lifted too early.

‘Tough choices’ ahead

Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference that England would face “tough choices” if the Indian variant turned out to be much more heritable than others.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said this could lead to “a really significant increase” in infections, and predicted that the variant could become the most dominant strain in the UK.

Despite growing concerns over the variant, Mr Johnson confirmed that the next phase of easing restrictions will go ahead as planned on Monday, May 17, which will allow people to mingle inside and physical contact will be allowed between them. households for the first time in over a year.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said it is “very likely” that the Indian strain is more transmissible than the one that emerged in Kent, and warned that there could be a spike in infections after Monday’s relaxation.

Sage said if higher levels of transmissibility are confirmed, moving to step three on Monday could “lead to a substantial resurgence in hospitalizations, similar to or greater than previous peaks.”

Scientists also recognized that there “may be some reduction in the protection” of the vaccines on the Indian variant.

In the Downing Street briefing on Friday, the Prime Minister said: ‘I don’t think we need, based on the current evidence, to delay our roadmap and we will continue with our plan to take the third step in England from Monday.

“But I have to say with you that this new variant could seriously disrupt our progress and make it more difficult to move to the fourth stage in June.”

Growing number of cases

Cases of the Indian variant have increased dramatically in the UK this week, with data from Public Health England (PHE) showing the numbers have risen from 520 to 1,313.

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

The variant is also believed to be responsible for half of coronavirus infections in Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen and South Northamptonshire, although these outbreaks are still low.

Outbreaks have also been identified in two areas in Tyneside and Newcastle, while there are around 30 cases in parts of Scotland, including Glasgow, with PHE indicating that nearly half of all cases are related to a trip or contact with a traveler.

Professor Whitty said the variant was “quite widespread in a number of parts of England and even elsewhere in parts of the UK’s four countries” and could overtake the Kent strain to become dominant in the UK.

He warned that the UK could see “a really significant increase” in Covid cases if it turns out to be much more communicable, adding: “This is a really critical question to which we do not yet have the answer.”

Speed ​​up second doses

The Prime Minister announced that the second doses of the vaccine, which provide people with maximum protection against the coronavirus, will now be brought forward for those over 50 and clinically vulnerable from the 12-week interval planned to eight weeks.

The military is also deployed to parts of the northwest that have suffered some of the highest rates of the Indian variant, and will distribute tests to aid surge testing efforts.

Surge tests are underway in several locations in England, including areas of Bolton, Blackburn, Sefton and London.

Mr Johnson urged people to “think very carefully” about the risk to their loved ones, “especially if they have not received that second dose or if it has not yet had time to take full effect.”

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This notice was published: 2021-05-15 12:22:37