UK prepares to 'flex' vaccination program to tackle Indian Covid-19 variant
UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Friday that the government was gearing up to "flex" its inoculation program in order to tackle the new coronavirus variant first detected in India.
Local lockdowns in areas where that variant was most present were another possibility, although for now the next phase for easing restrictions in England, which was due to start from 17 May, was still set to go ahead, he added.
Speaking to the BBC, the minister said that there would be a surge in vaccinations and testing in areas where that specific variant was spreading.
At the same time, the Department of Health and Social Care announced on Thursday that a new "surge rapid response" team of 100 staff would be deployed to Bolton, where the B1.617.2 variant was already rapidly spreading.
“While there is no firm evidence yet to show this variant has any greater impact on severity of disease or evades the vaccine, the speed of growth is concerning and the government is considering additional action if deemed necessary, including how to best utilize the vaccine roll-out to best protect the most vulnerable in the context of the current epidemiology,” the Department said in the statement.
Currently, almost 70% of UK adults, or about 36.0m people, had been administered at least one shot of the Covid-19 vaccines.
Of those, 19.0m had already received their second dose, with the rest originally expected to follow up to 12 weeks after their first shot.
Vaccines were currently available to anyone over the age of 38, but the government also said that they could be made available to younger people living in multi-generational households.
From 17 May, people in England and Wales would again be allowed to meet inside homes, pubs and restaurants, cinemas would reopen and overseas holiday travel would restart.