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Covid: Indian variant could disrupt 21 June easing, PM says Covid: Indian variant could disrupt 21 June easing, PM says
(32 minutes later)
Boris Johnson: New variant "may cause disruption to our attempts to continue down the roadmap"Boris Johnson: New variant "may cause disruption to our attempts to continue down the roadmap"
The Indian variant could pose "serious disruption" to lockdown easing in England on 21 June, the PM has said.The Indian variant could pose "serious disruption" to lockdown easing in England on 21 June, the PM has said.
Boris Johnson said if it was found to be "significantly" more transmissible there could be "some hard choices".Boris Johnson said if it was found to be "significantly" more transmissible there could be "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.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.
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, Public Health England figures 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.
According to Friday's government figures, a further 17 people have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive test and another 2,193 coronavirus cases have been recorded.According to Friday's government figures, a further 17 people have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive test and another 2,193 coronavirus cases have been recorded.
Why is the India variant causing concern in the UK?Why is the India variant causing concern in the UK?
What is the India Covid variant?What is the India Covid variant?
What are the latest changes to lockdown?What are the latest changes to lockdown?
Speaking at a 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". Currently, England's vaccination rollout is open to people over the age of 38.Speaking at a 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". Currently, England's vaccination rollout is open to people over the age of 38.
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 - which is when people can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors and six people or two households can meet indoors.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 - which is when people can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors and six people or two households can meet indoors.
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."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 he did not believe it was "impossible" to go ahead with step four of England's roadmap to ease coronavirus restrictions, but "we have to be utterly realistic" and there was "the risk of disruption and delay".He said he did not believe it was "impossible" to go ahead with step four of England's roadmap to ease coronavirus restrictions, but "we have to be utterly realistic" and there was "the risk of disruption and delay".
The government's aim with the fourth and final step of the roadmap is to remove all legal limits on social contact on 21 June - meaning there will be no limits on gatherings indoors or outdoors - nightclubs will be allowed to reopen and there will be no limits on weddings.The government's aim with the fourth and final step of the roadmap is to remove all legal limits on social contact on 21 June - meaning there will be no limits on gatherings indoors or outdoors - nightclubs will be allowed to reopen and there will be no limits on weddings.
The government has said easing restrictions on 21 June depended on its four tests being met - including that vaccines continue to be effective and the risks are not fundamentally changed by new variants.The government has said easing restrictions on 21 June depended on its four tests being met - including that vaccines continue to be effective and the risks are not fundamentally changed by new variants.
Mr Johnson added that there was "no evidence to suggest that our vaccines will be less effective in protecting people against severe illness and hospitalisation".Mr Johnson added that 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, he said.The Army would be deployed on the streets of Blackburn and Bolton to give out tests to help the surge testing efforts, he said.
There will be an acceleration of the vaccine rollout there, Mr Johnson said, including longer opening hours at vaccination centres.There will be an acceleration of the vaccine rollout there, Mr Johnson said, including longer opening hours at vaccination centres.
Prof Whitty said delays to the vaccination programme for younger people were not expected with the prioritisation of second doses for older age groups.Prof Whitty said delays to the vaccination programme for younger people were not expected with the prioritisation of second doses for older age groups.
Why do new variants of Covid-19 keep appearing? Laura Foster explainsWhy do new variants of Covid-19 keep appearing? Laura Foster explains
He warned that if the Indian variant proved to be more transmissible than other variants, the UK could see "a really significant surge" in Covid-19 cases, adding: "That's a really critical question to which we do not yet have the answer."He warned that if the Indian variant proved to be more transmissible than other variants, the UK could see "a really significant surge" in Covid-19 cases, adding: "That's a really critical question to which we do not yet have the answer."
"We expect over time this variant will overtake and come to dominate in the UK in the way that the Kent variant did," he added."We expect over time this variant will overtake and come to dominate in the UK in the way that the Kent variant did," he added.
The Scientific Advisory Group for emergencies has said there is a "realistic possibility" that the variant could be as much as "50% more transmissible" than the Kent strain.The Scientific Advisory Group for emergencies has said there is a "realistic possibility" that the variant could be as much as "50% more transmissible" than the Kent strain.
Public Health England figures released on Thursday have risen from 520 cases up to 5 May to 1,313 cases.Public Health England figures released on Thursday have risen from 520 cases up to 5 May to 1,313 cases.
Most of the cases - 1,255 - are in England, while there are 35 in Scotland, 12 in Northern Ireland and 11 in Wales, according to PHE.Most of the cases - 1,255 - are in England, while there are 35 in Scotland, 12 in Northern Ireland and 11 in Wales, according to PHE.
It said four people have now died with the Indian variant of concern as of 12 May.It said four people have now died with the Indian variant of concern as of 12 May.
Surge testing is taking place in 15 areas across England, including in Bolton
Mobile testing units have been set up in Bolton, PHE said, and door-to-door PCR testing had been offered to 22,000 residents. A PCR test is the most accurate way to check for Covid.Mobile testing units have been set up in Bolton, PHE said, and door-to-door PCR testing had been offered to 22,000 residents. A PCR test is the most accurate way to check for Covid.
More doses have been delivered to the town, which has also set up a vaccine bus to increase uptake among those who are eligible. More doses have been delivered to the town, which has also set up a vaccine bus to increase uptake among those who are eligible. A rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health officers has also been sent in.
Extra clinics will open in Blackburn and Darwen in Lancashire from next week to offer the vaccine to those who are eligible under national guidelines. Mr Johnson warned those living in Bolton and other affected areas that there was "now a greater risk from this new variant" and he urged people to be "extra cautious".
"There will be targeted new activity in Bolton and Blackburn to accelerate vaccine take-up among eligible cohorts - including longer opening hours at vaccination sites," he said.
Extra clinics will open in Blackburn and Darwen in Lancashire from next week to offer the vaccine to those who are eligible under national guidelines. The vaccination capacity of local pharmacies will also be increased.
But the area's public health director, Prof Dominic Harrison, said he was "furious" the government had refused a request to extend vaccinations in Blackburn.But the area's public health director, Prof Dominic Harrison, said he was "furious" the government had refused a request to extend vaccinations in Blackburn.
On Thursday, the council initially said all over-18s would be offered a jab, before later stating only those with underlying conditions could book an appointment.On Thursday, the council initially said all over-18s would be offered a jab, before later stating only those with underlying conditions could book an appointment.
Meanwhile, the R number - or reproduction number - in England is estimated to have risen slightly from between 0.8 and 1.0 to between 0.8 and 1.1, according to the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.Meanwhile, the R number - or reproduction number - in England is estimated to have risen slightly from between 0.8 and 1.0 to between 0.8 and 1.1, according to the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
If the R number is above one then the number of cases keeps increasing.If the R number is above one then the number of cases keeps increasing.
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