June 21 in doubt: Indian variant ‘60% more transmissible’ – data in ‘negative direction’

Boris Johnson 'facing pressure' over June 21st says expert

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Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London has estimated the Indian strain of coronavirus, also known as the Delta variant, is anywhere between 30 percent and 100 percent more transmissible than the Kent strain or Alpha variant – with 60 percent the most likely estimation. The British epidemiologist, who played a key role in the first lockdown in March 2020 with his scientific modelling, has urged caution ahead of the prospect of restrictions being lifted in 17 days’ time and pointed out the latest data is moving in a “negative direction”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “We’re certainly getting more data. Unfortunately, I mean, the news is not as positive as I would like on any respect about the Delta variant.

“The best estimate at the moment is this variant may be 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant.

“There’s some uncertainty around that depending on assumption and how you analyse the data, between about 30 percent and maybe even up to 100 percent more transmissible.”

The Indian variant is now believed to be dominant in the UK, with early evidence suggesting it may lead to an increased risk of being admitted to hospital.

A total of 12,431 cases of the mutation have been confirmed in the UK up to June 2, according to Public Health England.

The figures represent a 79 percent spike from the previous week’s total of 6,959.

Professor Ferguson was asked about the June 21 unlocking in England and stated he thinks the data “pointing this week in a more negative direction than it was last week”.

He said: “First of all, it’s not my job to make that decision, thankfully.

“I think the data is pointing this week in a more negative direction than it was last week, so it points towards the direction of being cautious.

“I think balancing, clearly, people’s desire – and there clearly is a built-up desire to get back to normal – against the potential risk is a very difficult judgment call.”

Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, conducted the media rounds this morning and was more upbeat about proceeding to the final stage of the roadmap on June 21.

Mr Jenrick insisted there was still “nothing at the moment that suggests that we won’t be able to move forward”.

However, he said the Government would wait another 10 days to assess the data before making a final decision.

Mr Jenrick said: “We’ve got a further 10 days until we are going to make that decision on or around June 14.

“So during that period we’ll see where are we with hospitalisations, with deaths, where are we with the vaccine rollout.

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“We’re doing everything we possibly can to expedite that and then at that point, we’ll make our final decision.”

But, even if the roadmap goes to plan, Britons look set for a domestic summer holiday after the only major destination, Portugal, was removed from the travel green list.

Portugal will be moved to amber travel list and means holidaymakers must quarantine in the UK from 4am on Tuesday.

The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the decision on Thursday and cited the rising number of cases and the emergence of a “Nepal mutation” in the region.
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