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United Kingdom anxious about Indian coronavirus variant, Johnson says

United Kingdom anxious about Indian coronavirus variant, Johnson says”

While there is no firm evidence yet to show this variant has any greater impact on severity of disease or evades the vaccine, the speed of growth is concerning and the government is considering additional action if deemed necessary, including how to best utilise the vaccine roll-out to best protect the most vulnerable in the context of the current epidemiology.

What other variants of concern have been identified in the UK?

The majority of cases of the India Covid strain are concentrated in the north-west of England, predominantly in Bolton, and in London.

It comes as 15 areas in England have seen rising cases of the Indian variant of concern.

During a visit to a primary school earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "anxious" about the India variant and suggested new local measures could be brought in to combat the spread, should it get out of control.

Mobile testing units have been deployed in Bolton, with door-to-door PCR COVID testing being offered to 22,000 residents and a rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health officers deployed.

Prof Naismith said he did not believe local restrictions would work to contain the variant, adding: "When we tried locally having different restrictions in different regions that didn't really make any difference".

Most cases detected in Britain are in northwestern England.

Nadhim Zahawi, the government minister in charge of vaccinations, told the BBC on Friday morning that, "We will take nothing off the table".

He said there was "no evidence to suggest that our vaccines will be less effective in protecting people against severe illness and hospitalisation".

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But the figures come amid a warning from Boris Johnson that new variants "pose a potentially lethal danger".

Earlier, Professor Paul Elliott, director of Imperial College London's React programme, cited the Indian variant when asked whether the study's latest data supported a move into the next stage of easing lockdown restrictions.

The India Covid variant, officially known as B.1.617, was first detected in India in October.

It has been found in virus samples from 44 countries and was designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organization this week, which means there is some evidence that it could have an impact on diagnostics, treatments or vaccines and needs to be closely monitored.

The Government is looking at ways to "flex" the rollout of vaccines in the worst hit areas such as the North West, including vaccinating everyone in multi-generational households from 18-year-olds to grandparents, Mr Zahawi said. "We keep learning this lesson, but we know that this will be the case".

Britain briefly reopened its economy at the end of a year ago, only to abruptly impose new restrictions that remained in place for months as it fought a deadly wave of infections.

Studies have since shown that giving the second dose 12 weeks after the first, instead of 21 days, can produce a stronger immune response.

But the campaign has slowed down since last month because of supply shortages and the need to start distributing second doses.

When the national vaccine programme began in the United Kingdom, officials took the bold decision to delay administering booster shots so that more elderly and vulnerable people could more quickly receive their first shots.

No, Professor Chris Whitty said the rollout of first doses to younger age groups is not expected to be delayed as the second doses are accelerated.

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