Seven things we learned from Boris Johnson's press conference on Covid Indian variant
The prime minister led a Downing Street press conference on Friday amid concerns surrounding the Indian Covid strain in Bolton.
He said there was no evidence that a rise in cases of the Indian variant was translating into unmanageable pressures on the NHS in terms of hospital admissions.
As a result, he said he believed there was no need to delay the roadmap reopening set for Monday, which will see people able to socialise indoors.
London and the North West have seen the biggest rise in cases of the variant, with Public Health England (PHE) data showing it has been responsible for four deaths as of May 12.
People over 50 and the clinically vulnerable will be offered their second dose of a Covid vaccine eight weeks after the first in a bid to dampen any impact from the Indian variant of coronavirus.
More vaccine doses have been sent to Bolton, which has a particularly high rate of the Indian variant, while 800,000 PCR tests have been sent to 15 separate areas of England, including parts of London and Merseyside.
Here is what we learned from the briefing:
Boris Johnson said that if the Indian variant proves to be “significantly more transmissible” than other strains “we’re likely to face some hard choices”.
He warned that the Indian Covid variant could “pose a serious disruption” to plans to ease restrictions and “could make it more difficult” to end them as hoped in June.
There is no evidence to show that the vaccines used in England will be any less effective in protecting people against severe illness and hospitalisation - if they catch the new strain of Covid.
Public Health England have said that 12,000 lives have been saved since the vaccines have been rolled out – and prevented over 33,000 people from being hospitalised.
The government will “accelerate” remaining doses to the over-50s and those clinically vulnerable right across the country so second jabs come eight weeks after the first.
The Prime Minister told the Downing Street press conference: “I believe we should trust in our vaccines to protect the public whilst monitoring the situation as it develops very closely because the race between our vaccination programme and the virus may be about to become a great deal tighter and it’s more important than ever therefore that people get the protection of a second dose.
“So following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation we will accelerate remaining second doses to the over-50s and those clinically vulnerable right across the country so those doses come just eight weeks after the first dose.”
Boris Johnson added: “We will also prioritise first doses for anyone eligible who has not yet come forward including the over 40s.”
Efforts ramped up in Bolton
The PM said the army would be deployed on the streets of Blackburn and Bolton to hand out tests to help the surge testing efforts.
There will also be an acceleration of the vaccine rollout there, including longer opening hours at vaccination centres.
“If you’re seeing loved ones, think really carefully about the risk to them, especially if they haven’t had that second dose or if it hasn’t yet had time to take full effect,” he said.
“I want us to trust people to be responsible, and to do the right thing. That’s the way to live with this virus while protecting the NHS and restoring our freedoms.
“It’s very clear now we’re going to have to live with this new variant of the virus for some time so let’s work together, and let’s exercise caution and common sense.”