Matt Hancock to lead Downing Street press conference as country awaits latest data on Indian variant

·2-min read
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Matt Hancock will head up a Covid-19 press conference on Wednesday afternoon as the nation awaits an update on the Indian variant.

The Health Secretary will be joined by deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam and Dr Jenny Harries from the UK Health Security Agency at the 5pm briefing in Downing Street.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there is “increasing confidence” that vaccines are effective against the Indian strain, potentially boosting hopes the government will be able to keep to their June 21 date for removing further pandemic restrictions.

Addressing MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions, he said the latest data suggests the jabs are working against all variants of the virus.

The spread of the B1617.2 variant had cast doubt on next month’s plans to ease remaining restrictions in England, but Mr Johnson has said there is no conclusive evidence to suggest a deviation from the road map.

In a further bout of optimism, Professor Neil Ferguson said the UK Indian variant appears not to spread at the most alarming rate feared.

Boris Johnson speaking at PMQs on WednesdayPA Wire
Boris Johnson speaking at PMQs on WednesdayPA Wire

The leading expert and epidemiologist said the B1.617.2 mutation is believed to have a “significant growth advantage” over other coronavirus variants, but this “magnitude seems to have dropped a little bit”.

But whether this is enough to quell fears of a huge third Covid wave is yet to become known.

Other questions which could be addressed include whether the country will see a return to local lockdowns and tier systems to tackle the spread of the Indian variant.

Speaking on the subject, Prof Ferguson said that local lockdowns were “more effective if they cover wider areas” adding that the tier system “to some extent worked, it slowed spread”.

Confusion surrounding holidays to amber list countries was referred to at the Commons where the Prime Minister insisted the position was in fact “very clear.”

Mr Johnson said people should only travel to an amber list country “for some extreme circumstance, such as the serious illness of a family member” adding that people “should not be going to an amber list country on holiday.”

When asked about travel restrictions, Prof Ferguson said that restrictions on travel depended on what was trying to be achieved.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we have a strategy at the moment of trying to reduce the risks, but not eliminate them.”

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