Military will help testing in England as Indian Covid variant threatens reopening

Photo: EPA

Britain deployed public health officials, supported by the army, to distribute coronavirus tests door-to-door in two northern England towns on Saturday in an effort to contain a fast-spreading variant that threatens plans to lift all lockdown restrictions next month, AP reported. Cases of a strain first identified in India have more than doubled in a week, defying a sharp nationwide downward trend in infections won by months of restrictions and a rapid vaccination campaign.

Government scientific advisers say the variant is likely more transmissible than the UK’s dominant strain, though it’s unclear by how much.

“If the virus is significantly more transmissible, we are likely to face some hard choices,” PM Boris Johnson said at a news conference on Friday. “I have to level with you that this could be a serious disruption to our progress.”

He said the next stage of lockdown-easing measures would take place as planned on Monday, but warned the variant might delay plans to lift all restrictions, including social distancing and face-covering rules, on 21 June.

The government’s scientific advisory committee says there is no evidence so far that the variant causes more severe disease or that existing vaccines won’t work against it. More than two-thirds of British adults have received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 37% have had both doses. The government is shortening the gap between doses for people over 50 from 12 to eight weeks in a bid to give them more protection.

Starting Monday, restaurants and pubs in England can open indoors. Museums, theaters, cinemas and hotels will reopen, and people can once again hug friends and family members they don’t live with.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are following similar but slightly different paths. The Scottish government is keeping the city of Glasgow and the northern area of Moray under restrictions because of rising case numbers there.

Critics said the government should have acted sooner to ban travelers from India, which has been gripped by a devastating coronavirus outbreak.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

Similar articles

  • UK starts replacing EU regulations

    UK starts replacing EU regulations

    Britain is to begin replacing or scrapping EU regulations that were copied into British law before EU divorcet, Brexit minister David Frost said. To avoid uncertainty and confusion as Britain left the EU after 40 years, the government automatically carried thousands of EU laws and regulations into British law so that they would still apply after Brexit.

    65
  • UK’s PM Johnson replaces foreign secretary in Cabinet shake-up

    UK’s PM Johnson replaces foreign secretary in Cabinet shake-up

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson demoted his top diplomat and fired his education minister in a major government shakeup Wednesday, as he tried to move on from a series of political missteps and revive his promise to “level up” prosperity across the UK, AP reported. In the biggest move, Johnson demoted Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has faced criticism for delaying his return from a holiday in Greece as the Taliban took over Afghanistan last month.

    66
  • UK recommends Covid-19 booster shots for over 50s

    UK recommends Covid-19 booster shots for over 50s

    The UK will offer a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine to everyone over age 50 and other vulnerable people after an expert panel said the boosters were needed to protect against waning immunity this winter, AP reported. Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers on Tuesday that the government had accepted the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization and would start offering booster shots next week. The World Health Organization has asked wealthy nations to delay booster shots until every country has vaccinated at least 40% of their populations.

    65