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Up To 75% Of New Covid-19 Cases Are Indian Variant, Hancock Says

2 min read

Up to three quarters of new cases of the coronavirus are the variant first identified in India, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday, Hancock said the number of coronavirus cases was rising and that the B.1.617.2 variant was continuing to spread in hotspots like Bolton and Blackburn.

There were 3,542 new cases of the coronavirus recorded yesterday, Hancock said — the biggest daily total since April 12. He added that the variant first identified in India was now the most dominant strain of the virus in the UK.

However, Hancock said data showed that vaccines were proving to be effective in combating this fast-spreading variant by "severing the link" between people infected with it and hospitalisations.

Of the 49 people currently hospitalised with the coronavirus in Bolton, one of the areas most affected by the B.1.617.2 variant, just five have received both doses of the vaccine, he said.

The health secretary revealed the most recent data suggests that the vaccine rollout has so far prevented 13,200 deaths and 39,700 hospitalisations across the country.

"The case for getting the jab has never been stronger," he said.

Hancock also stressed that the government expected the number of Covid-19 cases to rise again as lockdown measures are lifted, and that the key question was whether it leads to a surge in hospitalisations.

"The critical thing to watch is the link between the number of cases to how many people end up in hospital," he said. 

Dr Jenny Harries, who appeared at the press conference alongside Hancock, said there had been a "significant decrease" in the number of people dying after catching the coronavirus, and that now the majority of people dying were elderly and had not been vaccinated.

Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said scientists were seeing "very strong vaccine effectiveness" from two doses of the current jabs against the variant first identified in India.

However, she warned that the June 21 unlocking was "really, really on the cusp at the moment" as the government waits for conclusive data on the impact of the variant first identified in India.

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