New Delhi: United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday (May 14, 2021) announced to speed up the COVID-19 vaccination drive and warned that the 'Indian variant' is more transmissible.
In a press briefing, Johnson said that since Monday, the UK has seen further clusters of the B.1.617.2, the COVID-19 variant first observed in India.
He stated that it has so far been reported especially in Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen and some other parts of the country.
"At this stage, there are some important unknowns. We believe this variant is more transmissible than the previous one – in other words, it passes more easily from person to person - but we don't know by how much," the UK PM said.
WATCH LIVE: COVID-19 press conference (14 May 2021)
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) May 14, 2021
Boris Johnson also commented on the easing of lockdown restrictions in the UK and said that if B.1.617.2 is only marginally more transmissible, 'we can continue more or less as planned'.
"But if the virus is significantly more transmissible, we are likely to face some hard choices," he said.
"The good news is that so far we have no evidence to suggest our vaccines will be less effective in protecting people against severe illness and hospitalisation," he added.
Johnson said that the UK will accelerate remaining second coronavirus doses to the over 50s and those clinically vulnerable right across the country. He reduced the time period to get the second jab from 12 weeks to eight weeks after the first dose.
Johnson also announced that the UK will prioritise first doses for anyone eligible who has not yet come forward including the over 40s.
This is to be noted that the UK had aimed to lift all restrictions on June 21, after allowing people in England from Monday to hug again, meet in small groups indoors and travel abroad. However, Chris Whitty, England chief medical officer, said there was now confidence that B.1.617.2 was more transmissible than the 'Kent' variant that fuelled England's second wave of coronavirus. Whitty stated that B.1.617.2 could come to dominate in Britain.
Public Health England said on Thursday there had been 1,313 cases in England of B.1.617.2 in a week, more than double the previous week's figure, with four confirmed deaths.
Britain had also put India on a travel 'red list' in April, which resulted in people having to pay to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days.
The United Kingdom has so far reported over 44.62 lakh confirmed cases, of which, 1.27 lakh people have succumbed to the virus.
India, on the other hand, going through the raging second wave of COVID-19, has recorded over 2.4 crore cases including 2.62 lakh deaths.
(With agency inputs)