Indian variant means ‘nothing off table' & PM will take any 'national or regional' action needed, vows vaccine minister

Indian variant means ‘nothing off table' & PM will take any 'national or regional' action needed, vows vaccine minister

January 25, 2022

BORIS Johnson will take "whatever action" is necessary either "regionally or nationally" to squash the Indian Covid variant.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said "we rule nothing out" in terms of redrawing the jabs rollout or even reimposing lockdowns.

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But he said the lesson from the last year is that mass testing and isolation is the best way to get pockets of infection under control.

He was speaking amid growing concern that the spread of the Indian variant could delay the final stage of the PM's roadmap on June 21.

Cases have more than doubled in the space of seven days from 520 last week to 1,313 this, sparking alarm in Whitehall.

More than 800,000 tests have been sent into the worst affected areas which include Bolton, Formby, and parts of London.

Asked if local lockdowns could be reimposed, Mr Zahawi said: "We rule nothing out in terms of whatever action we need to take regionally or nationally.

"We will rule nothing out to make sure we bear down on this virus and get our lives back according to the roadmap."

He added one option is "flexing" the vaccine rollout to deliver extra jabs to the worst-affected parts of the country.

Ministers are looking at the possibility of vaccinating whole intergenerational households in those areas regardless of age.

Another possibility is speeding up the delivery of second doses to give more people a greater level of protection.

Boris Johnson has said No 10 is "anxious" about the spread of the variant and that there "may be things we have to do locally" to stop it.

He added the Government "will not hesitate" to act as "we want to make sure we take all the cautious steps now that we could take."

But on a day of mixed messages a senior Cabinet minister insisted he's confident the June 21 unlocking will go ahead as planned.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the probability of fully reopening venues is now "much higher" than it was when the roadmap was first drawn up.

He told MPs: "We are completely on track at the moment with the roadmap and the vaccination is rolling out as planned.

"I have a single-minded determination to get full reopening from June 21. With every passing day I get more confident that we can achieve that.

"There will have to be in the highest risk areas some kind of mitigations required.

"I cannot give the full assurance until we get to the stage of announcing stage four."



Saturday's FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester City is expected to have 21,000 fans at Wembley.

He added: "The outstanding issue at this stage is the extent to which there will be Covid certification in high-risk venues.

"We are currently working through exactly the threshold for that."

Ministers and top scientists have moved to reassure Brits that there is currently "no evidence" the Indian variant gets around vaccines.

Mr Zahawi said: "Vaccine effectiveness remains in place, that's a big tick.

"It’s more infectious but at the moment we have no evidence that it’s more severe in terms of its impact on the human body or on hospitalisation.

"And there’s no evidence the vaccines don’t work against it. That’s the good news."

Nick Loman, a professor of microbial genomics at Birmingham University, said he's “feeling quite good about the vaccine” when it comes to combating it.

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And Hugh Pennington, professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen, added: "I don’t think we should be particularly concerned.

"There’s no strong evidence that it’s nastier, that if you catch it you have a greater chance of going into hospital or into the ICU.

"And there’s no really strong evidence that they get round the vaccine immunity either.

"It does seem to be getting about quite well in certain parts of the country but that’s been the case with this virus anyway. It's a very transmissible virus.

“I don’t see any particular reason why we should be more worried about these variants, the ones we’ve seen so far, because the most important thing is none of them seem to escape the immunity we get from the vaccine."

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