Matt Hancock press conference: Urgent lockdown update as June 21 date hangs 'in balance'

Matt Hancock says Indian variant cases have ‘doubled’

The Health Secretary is due to speak at 5pm from Downing Street to discuss the India variant and coronavirus vaccines. It comes as Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London and a member of the Government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling Group (SPI-M), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the June 21 date for lifting legal limits on social contact was “very much in the balance”. 
Asked if it would go ahead or need to be reconsidered, he said: “I think that’s actively being considered. I think it’s very much in the balance and the data collected in the next two to three weeks will determine that.”

He said it was not yet clear how much more transmissible the Indian variant is but added: “Certainly, it is much easier to deal with 20 percent, even 30 percent more transmissible than it would be 50 percent or more.

“The challenge we have is because of how it was introduced into the country.

“It was introduced from overseas, principally into people with Indian ethnicity, a higher chance of living in multi-generational households and often in quite deprived areas with high density housing, and so we’re trying to work out whether the rapid growth we’ve seen in areas such as Bolton is going to be typical of what we could expect elsewhere, or is really what is called a founder effect which is often seen in these circumstances.

Matt Hancock press conference TODAY t

Matt Hancock press conference TODAY (Image: GETTY)

Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock will also comment on the vaccines impact on the variant (Image: GETTY)

“There’s a little bit of, I would say, glimmer of hope from the recent data that whilst this variant does still appear to have a significant growth advantage, the magnitude of that advantage seems to have dropped a little bit with the most recent data, so the curves are flattening a little, but it will take more time for us to be definitive about that.”

The Prime Minister is evaluating data on the spread of the India variant in the country amid concerns the June 21 may be pushed back or local lockdowns may be brought in. 

Some reports state Brits will not know until June 14 whether the June 21 to lift all restrictions will remain as surge vaccinations teams are dispatched to certain areas of the country. 

Areas such as Bolton and Blackburn have seen cases rise rapidly due to the India variant, while it has also been discovered in certain London boroughs. 

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Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock: It is unclear whether the vaccine will work fast enough (Image: GETTY)

In Bolton, the UK Government has invited all over-18s to receive a jab of the vaccine in a break from the national policy. 

With case rates rising sharply, it is unsure whether the vaccine, which takes 21 days to have an effect, will work fast enough to bring down transmission rates. 

Indeed, Conservative leader at Bolton council, David Greenhalgh said: “We are putting all the measures in that we can at the moment.

“We have community spread, there’s no doubt about that, and we’re holding back a variant that would appear – although the evidence is still being gathered – to be a little bit more transmissible, easily transmissible.

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Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock: Surge vaccination centres have been dispatched to Bolton (Image: GETTY)


Coronavirus: Matt Hancock will address concerns of the variant (Image: GETTY)

“The majority of our cases are in very much our younger age groups – primary school, secondary school and in their 20s.

“We still haven’t got an increase in hospitalisation and severe illness, which is hugely welcome, those figures still remain low.

“We’re doing everything we can, the Government has sent in surge vaccinations, surge testing.

“We’re doing everything we can, but I think the next two weeks we will still see our cases rising.”

Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock: Vaccine rates as of May 19 (Image: Express)

There is also concern the surge vaccine strategy only works for areas where the variant is located. 

However, Mr Hancock revealed this week the virus has now been located in 86 local authorities. 

Therefore, experts fear a sudden increase in hospitalizations across the country. 

Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock: Only a handful of areas have above-average case rates (Image: GETTY)

Despite the surge in cases in some areas, nationally the vaccine strategy has seen case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths drop. 

Indeed, data for May 18 has shown 2,412 new cases of the virus which is a 2.6 percent drop on the previous seven days. 

However, Bolton, Blackburn and Darwen, Bedford, Hounslow and Kirkless are all reporting above-average case levels. 

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: UK Feed

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