Indian variant of Covid-19 threatens UK's roadmap out of lockdown

People queue outside the ESSA Academy for a walk in vaccination in the Rumworth area of Bolton

People queue outside the ESSA Academy for a walk in vaccination in the Rumworth area of Bolton

It's been confirmed a concerning new variant of coronavirus has been detected in York, as Boris Johnson admits he's "anxious" about it.

Scientists are keeping a close eye on the spread of the Indian variant across the United Kingdom, but there are now no signs that infection is leading to rising hospital admissions, experts have said.

Latest figures show there are 1,313 cases of the variant in the United Kingdom, up from the 520 recorded the previous week.

He said there is a "very strong sense in United Kingdom at the moment that everybody wants to be part of this - to be contributing to the effort and to seeing this pandemic off".

"If we have to do other things, then of course the public would want us to rule nothing out".

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.

Surge testing is taking place in Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kensington & Chelsea, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets, but primarily in search of the South African variant.

Wards with high infection rates are generally in more deprived areas often associated with more cramped living conditions, people in public-facing jobs and individuals with underlying health conditions.

A spokeswoman for Blackburn with Darwen Council initially said extra vaccine doses had been secured so all people aged over 18 there could be offered the jab from next week amid rising cases.

Asked if masks and social distancing would be scrapped, Mr Johnson said more announcements would be made before the end of the month.

The Department of Health and Social Care say there is "no firm evidence yet" showing this variant has any greater impact on severity of disease or evades the vaccine but experts believe it may be more up to 40 percent more transmissible.

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"The prime Minister, the health secretary, have always been clear that the easing of restrictions which allow us to get back to normality will be done at a pace and in a way which is safe", he said.

Professor Steven Riley, from Imperial College London, said whether the road map for England continued on its planned trajectory is a "government decision" and was optimistic as he suggested the United Kingdom was now in a good place.

On Thursday, the prime minister's spokesman said surge vaccinations have not been ruled out as a way to deal with the rise.

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 will be effective against the Indian variant - a view echoed by some British scientists.

There are three Indian variants being studied by PHE - one is classed as a variant of concern and two as variants under investigation.

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

Researchers said the divergence between the pattern of infections and a pattern of hospital admissions and deaths suggests the rollout of mass vaccination is preventing severe outcomes.

Prof Naismith said: "I think we should view it as a country-wide problem".

He also said the data shows the virus has been spreading among "younger people and the working age population" in Bolton, not the over 65s.

"But there is a risk that people could have one of those variants that hasn't been done in the lab that had done the full sequencing, so it is something that we still need to be cautious around".

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