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Covid: Second vaccine doses to be sped up over variant concerns Covid: Indian variant could disrupt 21 June easing, PM says
(32 minutes later)
Surge testing is taking place in 15 areas across England, including in BoltonSurge testing is taking place in 15 areas across England, including in Bolton
Second vaccine doses for the over-50s and clinically vulnerable will be accelerated amid concerns over the Indian variant, Boris Johnson has said. The Indian variant could pose "serious disruption" to lockdown easing in England on 21 June, Boris Johnson says.
There will be only eight weeks between doses, rather than 12 weeks, the prime minister told a No 10 briefing. The PM said if it was found to be "significantly" more transmissible "we are likely to face some hard choices".
Mr Johnson said if the Indian variant was found to be "significantly" more transmissible "we are likely to face some hard choices". The wait between jabs will be cut from 12 weeks to eight for the over-50s and clinically vulnerable because of concern over the variant, he said.
It could pose "significant disruption" to lockdown easing on 21 June, he said. Cases of the Indian Covid variant have more than doubled in the past week, Public Health England figures show.
Cases of the Indian Covid variant have more than doubled in the past week, figures from Public Health England show.
Surge testing is already taking place in 15 areas across England, including Bolton, Blackburn, London, Sefton and Nottingham.Surge testing is already taking place in 15 areas across England, including Bolton, Blackburn, London, Sefton and Nottingham.
Why is the India variant causing concern in the UK?
What is the India Covid variant?
Speaking at the Downing Street briefing alongside the UK's chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty, Mr Johnson said first Covid vaccine doses will also be prioritised "for anyone eligible who has not yet come forward", including the over-40s.
The prime minister said he did not believe that the "present evidence" showed a need to delay the next stage in the easing of lockdown in England on Monday.
But Mr Johnson warned: "I have to level with you that this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress and could make it more difficult to move to step four in June."
He said there was "no evidence to suggest that our vaccines will be less effective in protecting people against severe illness and hospitalisation".
The Army would be deployed on the streets of Blackburn and Bolton to give out tests to help the surge testing efforts, the prime minister said.
There will be an acceleration of the vaccine rollout there, he said, including longer opening hours at vaccination centres.