ECONOMY

Government ‘will not hesitate’ to act on Indian coronavirus variant

M

inisters are poised to order further action in response to the spread of the Indian coronavirus variant of concern as new figures show cases have more than doubled in a week.

Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows a rise in cases from 520 to 1,313 this week in the UK, with the agency saying cases were “rising in the community” and it was assessing the impact and severity of the variant.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the situation was being monitored carefully and the Government “will not hesitate to take further action if necessary”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not ruled out local lockdowns being necessary to contain the spread of the virus.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director at PHE, said: “We need to act collectively and responsibly to ensure that variants do not impact on the progress we have all made to drive down levels of Covid-19 and the increased freedom that brings.”

In Bolton, which has one of the highest case rates of the variant in the country, mobile testing units have been deployed and door-to-door PCR Covid testing has been offered to 22,000 residents.

A vaccine bus has been set up to increase uptake among those who are eligible and a rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health officers has been sent in.

Meanwhile, surge testing has been deployed in Sefton, Merseyside, after cases of the Indian variant were confirmed in the Formby area, with anyone over 16 who lives, works or studies in the area urged to take a PCR test.

Measures have also been brought in elsewhere, including in parts of London.

Additional actions being considered include bringing forward the second dose of vaccines for eligible groups.

Mr Hancock said: “We are monitoring the situation very carefully and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.

“It is imperative we all continue to be vigilant, and if you live in one of the 15 areas where we’ve introduced surge testing, make sure you get a free PCR test.

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