Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out a roadmap out of lockdown for England, but warned that the rapidly spreading B.1.617.2 variant posed a risk to this plan.
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“The Indian variant is spreading all over the country,” Hancock told parliament. “My assessment is that it is too early now to say, again, if we can take the full fourth step (of the reopening plan) on June 21.
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“We will only do this if it’s safe. We will carry out a formal evaluation, before June 14, of the way forward for the 21st. “
The worrying B.1.617.2 variant is believed to spread faster than the previously dominant B.1.1.7 “Kent” variant, although vaccines still offer protection against serious disease.
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On Saturday, Public Health England (PHE) said two injections of the COVID-19 vaccine were almost as effective against B.1.617.2 as against the Kent variant, which Hancock said at the time boosted his confidence in the lifting of restrictions. month.
Asked why the reopening of the economy would be threatened by the variant if the COVID-19 vaccines still worked against it, Hancock said not everyone took the vaccines they were eligible for.
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Hancock also said 10% of people hospitalized with the new variant had been double-vaccinated – a sign the vaccines are working well, but not perfectly.
“We already knew that, but we’re better able to calibrate when we see this data,” he said.
“We’ll learn more about this in the next week or two, before we do an assessment.”
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