Boris Johnson ‘could delay end of lockdown to combat infectious Indian variant’
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Boris Johnson could delay the end of lockdown restrictions if the Indian variant leads to a further spike in cases, a minister has said.
The coronavirus mutation has already been dubbed a variant of concern by the Government, with cases more than doubling in the week up to May 7.
As it stands, restrictions will be relaxed on May 17 and all barriers on social contact will be lifted on June 21.
However, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly suggested the date could change.
When asked about the impact of the Indian variant, he told Sky News: "The scientists on Sage will make their assessments.
"They will report that to Government and we will make the decisions based on the data and the evidence they provide.
"The PM and the health secretary have always been clear the easing of restrictions, which will allow us to get back to normality, will be done at a pace and in a way which is safe and we will always be driven by the data."
However, he stressed that the UK is well placed due to the success of the vaccine rollout.
Mr Cleverly added: "We want to make sure we’re always basing our decisions on the most up to date scientific data.
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“But we have seen incredibly positive numbers because of our vaccine programme.
"We’ll be keeping a close eye on all variants to make sure we move forward appropriately and safely."
Professor Tom Wenseleers, a biologist and biostatistician from KU Leuven University in Belgium, earlier analysed the Indian strain and compared it to the other mutation which led to skyrocketing infection rates in Kent.
He tweeted: “The Indian data estimates that B.1.617.2 has a 10% per day growth [advantage] over B.1.1.7 [translates to a ~60% transmission advantage].”
University College London mathematician Professor Christina Pagel also said the Indian strain could be “outcompeting” the Kent variant.
Environment Secretary George Eustice earlier said the Government could bring back local lockdowns to tackle Covid hotspots.
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He admitted the return of last year's local tiering system would be a last resort because it failed to stop the spread of the virus across the country.
Ministers are concerned about the emergence of 34 hotspots where the number of new cases is running at twice the national average.
There is a cluster around the north of England including Hyndburn in Lancashire, which has the highest rate in the country.
- Boris Johnson
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