| 19 May 2024, Sunday |

UK to bring second jabs forward to tackle rise in Indian variant cases

UK government said that the second vaccine jab could be brought forward and local restrictions introduced to help tackle the Indian variant in the worst-affected areas.

It said “economic and social” restrictions could be reimposed in parts of England if necessary, especially after the Public Health England has recorded 1,313 UK cases of the Indian variant.

The figures released on Thursday are more than double the 520 cases recorded by PHE up to May 5.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said there was “no firm evidence yet to show this variant has any greater impact on severity of disease or evades the vaccine”.

But it also said ministers “cannot impose economic and social restrictions at a local or regional level if evidence suggests they are necessary to contain or suppress a variant which escapes the vaccine”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are monitoring the situation very carefully and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.”

On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not rule out remiposing regional restrictions, saying: “It is a variant of concern, we are anxious about it.”

But he added there was no evidence to suggest England’s planned lockdown easing could not go ahead.

The next major easing of restrictions is due to take place on 17 May.

Almost 36 million people have also received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and on Friday Public Health England said vaccines had saved 11,700 lives and stopped 33,000 people becoming seriously ill with the disease in England.