• Friday, December 02, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

Vaccines work on Indian variant, says Matt Hancock as cases rise sharply

Britain’s health secretary Matt Hancock. (Jeff Overs/BBC/Handout via REUTERS)

By: Pooja Shrivastava

THE INDIAN variant does spread more easily, but early data suggests vaccines still work.

Britain’s health minister Matt Hancock told MPs that 2,323 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant have been confirmed in the country with 483 of those in Bolton and Blackburn. There are now 86 local authorities with five or more confirmed cases of the variant, he said.

He said most people who ended up in hospitals infected by this variant in those areas were eligible for vaccination but had chosen not to have it. He urged anyone not sure whether to get jabbed to “look at what’s happening in Bolton”.

“This shows the new variant is not tending to penetrate into older vaccinated, groups, and it underlines again the importance of getting the jab,” Hancock told parliament.

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker prepares a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine. REUTERS/Lee Smith/File Photo

Over the past five days, the variant has seen a 77% increase in confirmed cases in the UK. As lockdown eased in England, Wales and most of Scotland on Monday (17), this new variant is now posing a threat to the upliftment of all the remaining restrictions that are supposed to happen on June 21. 

Meanwhile, experts feel that the B.1.617.2 variant is set to become the dominant strain in the UK within days.

“There is no evidence that the recent rapid rise in cases of the B.1.617.2 variant shows any signs in slowing,” Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia said. “This variant will overtake [the Kent variant] and become the dominant variant in the UK in the next few days, if it hasn’t already done so.”

The government could face a significant backlash if the spread of the B.1.617.2 variant derails the planned June reopening, or even forces the reversal of some of Monday’s changes. With its rapid spread, the government is facing intense pressure to explain why India was not added sooner to the red list of countries, from which all arrivals apart from UK nationals are banned, and those who do come must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.

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