‘We Are Anxious’ About Spread of Indian Covid Variant, Says Boris Johnson

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PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP via Getty Images

LONDON (AP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson voiced anxiety Thursday about a rise in the UK of the coronavirus variant first identified in India, after a closely-monitored study of infections in England found it becoming more prevalent – just ahead of the next big easing of lockdown restrictions.

“It is a variant of concern, we are anxious about it,” Johnson said. “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.”

Johnson’s comments have stoked speculation that the government will ramp up vaccinations alongside testing in areas which are seeing a rising incidence of the virus.

Already, the local authority in the north-west England town of Blackburn is setting up additional coronavirus vaccine clinics following a spike in new infections. For now, the jabs will be offered to those eligible under the rules governing the rollout, which is largely based on age – the rollout was extended Thursday, with vaccines now available to those aged 38 and 39.

Worries over the Indian variant were central in the latest assessment of the pandemic in England from Imperial College London. Though it said overall cases have fallen to their lowest level since August following a strict lockdown and a successful rollout of vaccines, it warned that the Indian variant should be closely monitored. The so-called REACT study said the Indian variant was found in 7.7% of the 127,000 cases tested between April 15 and May 3.

Professor Steven Riley from Imperial College said it´s unclear whether the Indian variant is more transmissible but warned that “this is a risk.”

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