Indian coronavirus variant 'under analysis' says Harries
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The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) is concerned the increasing number of cases risks throwing Boris Johnson’s roadmap back to normality off course. The Prime Minister is hoping to lift virtually all legal pandemic restrictions on June 21.
However, the timetable is dependent on no rise in cases of worrying mutant Covid strains.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister admitted the increase in cases of the Indian variant – officially called B1617.2 – was “of increasing concern here in the UK”.
COG-UK, a group of scientists tracking new variants, has found 1,723 cases of the strain.
Last week Public Health England (PHE) said there were 520 cases.
If PHE confirms the COG-UK numbers it would suggest the number of cases of the mutant variant has tripled in just a week.
The cases appear to have largely spread in localised areas such as Bolton in Greater Manchester and Glasgow in Scotland.
There are concerns the strain could be resistant to the jabs currently being deployed across Britain, after reports some fully vaccinated people in India have become infected.
So far, more than 35 million Brits have received at least one dose of a coronavirus injection, while over 18 million have received their second.
Yesterday, environment minister George Eustice said the Government “can’t rule anything out” when asked whether a local lockdown could be implemented due to the surge.
However, this morning Professor James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, warned the variant could not be tackled locally and ministers “should view it as a country-wide problem”.
He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “It will get everywhere, we keep learning this lesson, we know this will be the case.
“If it is fit, and we don’t know that to be the case, and if it spreads quickly, it will spread way beyond its local area.”
Ahead of the meeting today, a member of Sage told The i newspaper the final step on June 21 could be pushed back.
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“A delay is possible,” they said.
The fears come just days before the next easing of lockdown restrictions is due to take place on Monday.
From May 17, indoor hospitality will be allowed to re-open serving tables of two households or up to six people.
Cinemas, museums, and other indoor entertainment venues will also re-open their doors for the first time since last year.
Despite the rise in cases of the Indian variant, there are no plans to delay the change in rules taking place next week.
Findings from the latest Covid-19 REACT-1 study indicate the number of cases of the virus dropped by 50 percent between March and early May, and is at its lowest since August.
The React study looked at variants of coronavirus and found that of 115 positive swabs, 24 cases were identified as the Kent variant, and two of three cases in London were identified as the Indian variant of concern.
In total 127,408 swab tests carried out across England between April 15 and May 3.
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