U.K.’s Johnson More Confident Vaccines Work Against Variants

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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he has “increasing confidence” vaccines are working against all coronavirus variants, raising hopes that the last lockdown rules will be lifted as planned next month.

New data indicates that “vaccines are effective against all variants, including the Indian variant,” Johnson told MPs on Wednesday. The spread of the new form of the virus had sparked concern that the government will be forced to delay plans to end most restrictions in England on June 21.

There are currently 2,967 cases of the India variant in the U.K., Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced Wednesday, up from 2,323 on Monday. Extra testing sites are being set up in eight more districts that have detected spikes in cases, Hancock told parliament.

Surge testing

Alongside Bolton and Blackburn in the northwest, surge testing will be in place in Bedford, north of London, Burnley in northwestern England, Hounslow in west London, Kirklees in northern England, Leicester in central England, and North Tyneside in northeastern England, as well as Glasgow and Moray in Scotland.

More vaccinations will be available to those who are eligible in these areas, although shots are not being offered to those who are 35 and younger, Hancock said. Government guidance states that only people aged 36 and over can currently book to get a vaccine.

The U.K. government also said it is starting a trial to see which vaccines will work as a booster shot, ahead of a planned booster program starting later this year.

In other developments:

  • It’s too soon to say whether all legal limits on social contact will be lifted on June 21, Hancock said later on Wednesday in a press conference
  • People who want to go on holiday should stay in the U.K. or visit a green-listed country, Hancock said
  • 30,000 home quarantine checks by the government were conducted last week, Hancock said

Pubs and restaurants reopened for indoor dining and drinking on Monday, but the hospitality trade has been calling for social distancing rules to be dropped to make their businesses viable.

The latest Covid-19 data isn’t showing “any sharp increases or significant areas of concern,” Johnson’s official spokesman, Max Blain, told reporters on Wednesday. He added that the government wants to see more data before it makes decisions about the next step.

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