Indian variant: Government 'concern' at speed of growth

Moray council mobile Covid testing centre

Moray council mobile Covid testing centre Credit Peter Jolly Northpix

Testing and isolating when required not only limits spread, it helps us to better understand how the variant behaves in the community which is vital to taking effective and proportionate action moving forward.

Despite the spreading cases of the variant, with 520 confirmed B.1.617 cases in the United Kingdom, more robust studies will be required before decisions are made.

Boris Johnson said the COVID-19 variant "has been spreading" and the United Kingdom wants to "grip it".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the findings "demonstrate the impact our incredible vaccination rollout is having on Covid-19 infection rates across the country, with prevalence lowest amongst those more vulnerable people aged 65 and over".

"The top-line Government policy is driven by protecting the NHS, so even if infection starts to go up, we then need to assess whether that's bringing a lot of new cases into hospitals, and there's certainly no sign of that at the moment".

Bolton has one of the highest rates of the Indian variant in the United Kingdom, thought to be mostly concentrated in the under-25s.

A vaccine bus has been set up to increase uptake among those who are eligible and a rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health officers has been sent in.

Surge testing has been rolled out to parts of Sefton, Merseyside, after cases of the India variant of coronavirus were found.

Johnson was asked if local lockdowns were possible, he said, "There are a range of things we could do, we want to make sure we grip it".

"Obviously there's surge testing, there's surge tracing".

It's been confirmed a concerning new variant of coronavirus has been detected in York, as Boris Johnson admits he's "anxious" about it. "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. "We're ruling nothing out", he added.

Local lockdowns are only expected to be used if evidence suggests they are necessary to contain or suppress a variant which escapes the vaccine. There is limited evidence on just how problematic the variant is, with little peer-reviewed information available.

What is the Indian variant?

Any attempt to impose new restrictions is likely to meet with fierce resistance.

Steve Baker, the deputy chair of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory backbenchers, said: "Why on Earth would we lock down when the vaccines continue to break the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths?"

A statement from the Department of Health and Social Care said that "most cases are in the North West of England, with some in London".

The US Centers for Disease Control said on Thursday that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most indoor settings, heralding a major step back to normality in America. Scientists believe they have the potential for it to transmit faster and to get past immune cells made in response to older variants.

Dr Hopkins urged people to follow local public health advice and said: "Cases of this variant are rising in the community and we are continuously monitoring its spread and severity to ensure we take rapid public health action".

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