Scientists keeping close eye on spread of Indian variant

Scientists keeping close eye on spread of Indian variant

Scientists keeping close eye on spread of Indian variant

Britain's government is anxious about the spread of the Covid-19 variant first detected in India and rules nothing out to tackle a sharp rise in cases of it, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday.

A minister has told Sky News that step three of England's lockdown easing will still go ahead on Monday, despite soaring cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus in the UK.

The latest data on the B1.617.2 variant, published by PHE this evening, shows the number of cases across the United Kingdom has risen from 520 last week, to 1,313 cases this week.

Scientists are keeping a close eye on the spread of the variant across the United Kingdom, with a big rise in cases expected to be revealed on Thursday.

"At the moment there is a very wide range of scientific opinion about what could happen".

"We want to make sure that we take all the prudential, all the cautious steps now that we could take".

Surge testing, increased genomic sequencing and enhanced contact tracing have all been introduced in affected regions.

"I think we have to wait a little bit longer to see how the data is looking but I am cautiously optimistic about that and provided this Indian variant doesn't take off in the way some people fear, I think certainly things could get back much, much closer to normality", he said.

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

On Thursday, Blackburn with Darwen Council initially said all over-18s would be offered a jab, before later stating only those with underlying conditions could book a vaccination.

Experts also say there's no evidence the variant is more deadly, or that current vaccines don't work against it.

The future of things like social distancing and mask-wearing is less clear, although Mr Johnson did say more announcements would be made before the end of the month. Zahawi said that the government "will continue to be guided by the clinicians, by the data" as they make decisions.

York's coronavirus rate is now 18 per 100,000 and York and Scarborough Hospitals Trust now has only three patients with Covid-19, none of them in intensive care.

On Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency said it was "pretty confident" that vaccines now in use would be effective against the Indian variant - a view echoed by some British scientists.

Officials fear the variant, one of three first found in India, is at least as transmissible as the so-called Kent variant identified in southeast England past year, which fuelled Britain's second wave of infections.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, "The vaccines don't 100% prevent infection for people".

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

Underpinning their concern is the alarming rate at which the variant is spreading, not unlike the Kent-variant which led to the peak of the second wave in January.

"And we actually see that difference growing nicely now for hospitalisations as well, so for each infection in the community we are producing fewer hospitalisations and far fewer deaths".

"I think we should view it as a countrywide problem", he said.

The Labour politician, who was re-elected as mayor earlier this week, asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) for permission to vaccinate everyone over 16 in Greater Manchester.

County rollout director Chris Pallot said: "We don't know the details yet, but we've been blitzing vaccine since December so it wouldn't come as anything new to us and we have plans in place to cope with that".

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