LOCAL lockdowns won’t beat the Indian Covid variant, an expert has warned.
Professor James Naismith said today the growing infections are a UK-wide problem, and will spread beyond the current hotspots.
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He told BBC Radio 4’s today programme: “I think we should view it as a country-wide problem.
“It will get everywhere. We keep learning this lesson, but we know that this will be the case.
“When we tried locally having different restrictions in different regions that didn’t really make any difference.
“So I don’t think thinking about a localised strategy for containment will really work.”
Boris Johnson said while visiting a school in County Durham this morning: “It is a variant of concern, we are anxious about it.
“At the moment there is a very wide range of scientific opinion about what could happen.
“We want to make sure we take all the prudential, cautious steps now that we could take, so there are meetings going on today to consider exactly what we need to do.
“There is a range of things we could do, we are ruling nothing out.”
The rise in case of the variant, which experts fear could be less impacted by vaccines, has caused concern the UK’s roadmap dates might be delayed.
Downing Street said there were no plans to bring back any tier systems, but the Prime Minister added: “If we have to do other things, then of course the public would want us to rule nothing out. We have always been clear we would be led by the data.
“At the moment, I can see nothing that dissuades me from thinking we will be able to go ahead on Monday and indeed on June 21, everywhere, but there may be things we have to do locally and we will not hesitate to do them if that is the advice we get.”
Professor Steven Riley, from Imperial College London, said that whether the road map for England continues on its planned trajectory was “a Government decision”.
He told Times Radio: “I think there’s two key things that have got to be kind of evaluated – if infections go up, how quickly will they go up? But then after that, are they linked to the hospitalisations?
“The top-line Government policy is driven by protecting the NHS, so even if infection starts to go up, we then need to assess whether that’s bringing a lot of new cases into hospitals, and there’s certainly no sign of that at the moment.”
Covid cases rise in Indian variant hotspots
Covid cases have risen significantly in areas that have been identified as hotspots of the Indian Covid variant.
Bolton, Greater Manchester, diagnosed 467 cases in the week to May 8, up on the 238 to May 1. Overall cases are up more than 93 per cent in a fortnight.
Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire recorded 149 new cases in the week to May 8, and 52 the week before that – an increase of 86 per cent in two weeks.
The five areas with the biggest week-on-week rises in England to May 8, according to PA, are:
- Erewash (up from 28.6 cases per 100,000 people to 205.4)
- Bolton (83.5 to 162.4)
- Blackburn with Darwen (53.4 to 99.5)
- Bedford (38.7 to 71.6)
- Sefton (25.7 to 52.1)
The Indian variant, called B.1.617.2, is alarming due to its ability to spread fast.
Current evidence suggests that vaccines will work against severe disease at least to some degree, but this has not been studied intensely in real world populations.
Public health officials have told people living in areas of hotspots to be extra cautious.
Some experts have called for the easing of lockdown to be halted while the variant is studied closely.
The Government consider a range of factors when deciding whether to go ahead with the next step of the lockdown exit roadmap.
One of these is new variants which have the potential to evade vaccines
Prof Christina Pagel said the roadmap should “absolutely” be slowed until “’we either know for sure it’s not more transmissible or vaccine resistant, or we’ve stamped out the outbreaks or we’ve got further in the vaccine programme”.
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Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, told the Downing Street briefing last Friday: “We really do want people to be extra cautious.
“We are encouraging people to continue working from home … socialise outdoors even if the situation abnd the rules change – it is really important people continue to do that.
“This is likely to be a bit of a pattern as we go forward, so we need the public to do everything that they have been doing in sticking to the rules, but in those particular areas to be particularly careful.”