Number Of India Variant Covid Cases Jumps By 1,000 Over The Weekend As Matt Hancock Urges Those Eligible To Get A Vaccine
Matt Hancock revealed more than 2,300 cases of the Indian variant have been registered in the UK (Alamy)
Matt Hancock has revealed the number of cases of the Indian variant of Covid-19 has jumped by 1,000 amid fears its spread may impact the easing of lockdown restrictions.
The health secretary told the Commons a total of 2,323 cases of the more transmissible coronavirus mutation have been reported in more than 80 local authority areas.
Of those, 483 are just in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, where the Indian variant is now the dominant strain of the virus.
“Cases there have doubled in the last week and are rising in all age groups,” Hancock said.
"In Blackburn, hospitalisations are stable with eight people currently in hospital with Covid, and in Bolton 19 people are now in hospital with coronavirus - the majority of whom are eligible for a vaccine but haven't yet had a vaccine.
"This shows the new variant is not tending to penetrate into older, vaccinated groups and it underlines again the importance of getting the jab especially - but not only - amongst the vulnerable age groups.”
The Cabinet minister was speaking on the day the third step on the Prime Minister’s roadmap to end restrictions has begun, but questions are being asked whether the fourth and final step can now be taken on 21 June as planned given the new surge in cases.
Last week Boris Johnson promised "we'll be saying more later this month about exactly what the world will look like" once the last set of restrictions can be removed.
He committed to saying what role there could be “if any, for certification and social distancing”, as well as set out “all the details about the marriage world post-June 21” by the end of this month.
But Downing Street today refused to commit to those timetables, with the PM’s spokesperson saying: "We need time to assess the latest data on this variant first identified in India so I'm not going to give a set time for doing that.
"We want to do everything possible to give people enough time to prepare.”
In response to the surge in cases in the North West the government sent thousands of additional doses of the vaccine, with Hancock saying they had “quadrupled the rate” in Bolton with 6,200 jabs carried out this weekend.
He said: "It has been really heartening, I am sure the whole House will agree, to see the videos that have been published over the weekend of people queuing up to get the jab
"To anyone who feels hesitant, not just in Bolton or Blackburn, but to anyone who feels hesitant about getting the vaccine right across the country, just look at what is happening in Bolton Hospital.
"Where the majority of people in hospital with coronavirus were eligible for the jab but have chosen not yet to have the jab and have ended up in hospital - some of them in intensive care.
"Vaccines save lives, they protect you, they protect your loved ones and they will help us all get out of this pandemic."
The health secretary also told MPs people aged 37 will be offered the vaccine from tomorrow, with those aged 36 eligible from Wednesday, which NHS England said means more than a million more people will be able to get a jab.