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Indian variant ‘rising in community’ before lockdown eased

Indian case Covid Variants are “increasing in the community” across the UK, prompting ministers to consider ordering further measures in response to the spread.

New figures show cases more than doubled in a week (from 520 to 1,313 this week), with Public Health England (PHE) saying it is assessing the impact and severity of the variant.

One envisaged response is advancing the date of a second dose of vaccine for eligible groups to increase protection.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not ruled out that local locks are necessary to contain the spread of the virus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the situation was being watched closely and the government “will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.”

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Dr Susan Hopkins, Director of Covid-19 Strategic Response at PHE, said: “We need to act collectively and responsibly to ensure that the variants do not impact the progress we have all made to reduce levels of Covid-19 and the increased freedom that brings. “

In Bolton, which has one of the highest case rates of the variant in the country, mobile testing units have been deployed and door-to-door Covid PCR testing has been offered to 22,000 residents.

A vaccine bus was set up to increase uptake among eligible people and a rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health workers was dispatched.

Surge tests are underway in Bolton, one of the main areas where the Indian virus has been detected. Credit: Pennsylvania

Meanwhile, surge tests have been deployed to Sefton, Merseyside, after cases of the Indian variant were confirmed in the Formby area, and anyone over the age of 16 who lives, works or studies in the area is invited to take a PCR test.

Measures have also been introduced elsewhere, including parts of London.

Mr Hancock said: “We are monitoring the situation very closely and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.

“It is imperative that we all continue to be vigilant, and if you live in any of the 15 areas where we have introduced surge testing, be sure to get a free PCR test.

“And everyone who is eligible must come forward and receive a hit.”

Mr Johnson said the government was “worried” about the variant and that there was a range of things we could do, we’re not ruling out anything. “

Despite the release of the Indian variant, Mr Johnson said there was “nothing to dissuade me” from easing England’s lockdown on Monday or the further steps towards normalcy on June 21.

But he added “there may be things we need to do locally and we will not hesitate to do them if that is the advice we receive.”

Local locks should only be used if there is evidence to suggest that they are needed to contain or remove a variant that escapes the vaccine.

There is no evidence to suggest that the variant is resistant to the vaccine. Credit: Pennsylvania

Although the Indian variant is considered highly transmissible, vaccines are expected to be effective against it.

Any attempt to impose further restrictions is likely to meet fierce resistance.

Tory Steve Baker, vice chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of MPs, said: “Why on earth would we do a lockdown when vaccines continue to break the link between cases and hospitalizations and deaths?”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has warned against attempts to impose local measures.

Mr Burnham, who fought the government over Manchester restrictions last year, told the BBC news broadcaster: “We would be very concerned if the government submits Blackburn, Bolton, anywhere to be honest, to local restrictions when the rest of the country unlocks. “

Party people at a pilot Covid security event in the UK Credit: Richard McCarthy / PA

PHE said cases of the variant and all clusters are “quickly investigated” by local PHE teams, boards and the NHS Test and Trace to identify contacts of those who test positive.

People are encouraged to take tests and self-isolate if necessary.

PHE said there were “many small groups scattered” in London and that it was working with borough councils on a local approach, which had already been effective in reducing variations.

Dr Hopkins urged people to follow local public health advice and said: “Cases of this variant are on the rise in the community and we are constantly monitoring its spread and severity to ensure we are taking health action. fast public. “

(PA graphics) Credit: PA graphics

PHE is asking the public to continue working from home and to accept the offer of twice weekly lateral flow testing.

MP Layla Moran, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the coronavirus, said: ‘The latest figures are deeply concerning and suggest that the government has not acted quickly enough to prevent the importation of the Indian variant into the UK. “

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