The strain is now “dominant” in the Lancashire hotspots of Bolton and Blackburn, said Matt Hancock, warning: “Cases have doubled in the last week and are increasing across all age groups.”
The increase – from 1,313 to 2,323 confirmed cases since last Thursday, an increase of 77 percent – came as Labor condemned a “catastrophic misstep” by failing to slam restrictions on travel from the United States. India on time last month.
Meanwhile, Downing Street has dropped a deadline to reveal whether social distancing will end next month – making it clear that the planned end of all remaining Covid rules is in great danger.
A week ago, Boris Johnson said he planned to abolish the “1m plus rule” on June 21 – promising full details by the end of May – but his spokesperson backed off. commitment.
“We need time to assess the latest data on the variant first identified in India – I’m not going to give a fixed time to do it,” he said, when asked about the end of the review .
In the Commons, Mr Hancock announced that vaccines for the 37-year-old would be offered starting Tuesday – and 36 a day later – and opened the door to offering people a choice of jab, if needed to fight ” the hesitation”.
“If we can do more on the specifics of which vaccine, I’m very happy to consider that,” the health secretary told MPs in a statement.
Mr Hancock announced that surge testing would be extended to Bedford after an increase in cases of Indian variants there, saying: ‘There are now 86 local authorities where there are five or more confirmed cases. “
But he pointed out that “initial observational data from India indicating that vaccines are effective against this variant” – provided people show up for their injections.
“In Bolton, 19 people are now hospitalized with coronavirus – the majority of whom are eligible for a vaccine but have not yet received a vaccine,” Mr Hancock said.
“This shows that the new variant does not tend to penetrate the older and vaccinated groups and it again underscores the importance of receiving the vaccine, especially – but not only – among vulnerable age groups.
Across the UK, there are now less than 1,000 people hospitalized with Covid and the average number of daily deaths is only nine.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labor’s shadow health secretary, launched the attack, telling Mr Hancock: ‘We could have avoided that.
“Our borders have been about as secure as a sieve. The delay in adding India to the “red list” is certainly a catastrophic misstep. “
Mr Hancock insisted: “We put India on the red list before other countries like Germany and Canada stopped flying from India. We have a strong policy of border restrictions. “
But he was also criticized during his weekend instruction to British holidaymakers not to travel to countries on the ‘Orange List’ – as well as the Red List.
The advice had previously been posted on a government website, but the health secretary’s warning came as a shock to many would-be tourists nonetheless.
Huw Merriman, the Conservative chairman of the transport committee, accused Mr Hancock of “effectively turning the orange list into a red list,” asking, “What’s the use of having my passport?”