UK “anxious” about India-related COVID-19 variant: PM

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LONDON, May 13 (Xinhua) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that Britain is “anxious” about the coronavirus variant first detected in India and his government is “ruling nothing out” to tackle its spread in the country.

“We want to make sure that we take all the prudential, all the cautious steps now that we could take,” he told Sky News.

“So there are meetings going on today (Thursday) to consider exactly what we need to do,” he said.

Johnson’s remarks came in the wake of spikes of new variants in some areas in Britain. Scientists have raised concerns that the current vaccines may be less effective against the new variants.

The consortium of scientists studying new variants in the country, COG-UK, has identified a total of 1,723 cases of the Indian variant known as B1617.2.

Although some of these will be duplicates, it is more than triple Public Health England’s confirmed figure last week of 520, according to Sky News.

However, Johnson said the easing of lockdown will go ahead as planned for now.

Johnson said he “can see nothing that dissuades me from thinking we’ll be able to go ahead on Monday and indeed on June 21 everywhere” in terms of easing coronavirus restrictions in England.

“I think we have to wait a little bit longer to see how the data is looking but I am cautiously optimistic about that and provided this Indian variant doesn’t take off in the way some people fear, I think certainly things could get back much, much closer to normality,” he said.

Johnson confirmed Monday that the lockdown in England will be further lifted from next week.

From May 17, pubs, bars and restaurants in England will be permitted to open indoors, while indoor entertainment will also resume, including cinemas, museums and children’s play areas.

People in England will be allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30 people, and meet indoors in groups of up to six or as two households.

Meanwhile, all remaining accommodation including hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen from next Monday, according to Johnson.

The British government’s roadmap is expected to see all legal limits on social contact to be removed on June 21.

However, some experts believe more urgent action is needed to tackle the situation.

Going ahead with the planned easing on Monday could “add fuel to the fire” of the Indian variant’s spread — and risks “more uncertainty, more damaging closures and longer recovery from a worse situation”, Prof Christina Pagel, director of the clinical operational research unit at University College London, tweeted.

According to the latest official figures, more than 35.7 million people in Britain have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Russia, the United States as well as the European Union have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines. Enditem

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