COVID-19: Almost 3,000 cases of Indian variant recorded in UK as surge testing and vaccinations extended

There are now almost 3,000 cases of the Indian variant in the UK, the health secretary has told MPs.

Matt Hancock said 2,967 cases of the COVID-19 variant have now been recorded, having stood at more than 2,300 on Monday – a 28% increase.

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‘Increasing confidence’ jabs can beat variants

As a result, surge testing and vaccinations will be deployed in Bedford, Burnley, Hounslow, Kirklees, Leicester and North Tyneside.

Ministers are also supporting the Scottish government, which is taking similar steps in Glasgow and Moray.

“What this means in practice is we are putting in place more testing and more testing sites,” Mr Hancock said.

“On vaccinations, we are making more vaccinations available to everyone who is eligible.”

The health secretary told MPs that in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, where the most cases of the variant have been recorded, 26,094 jabs and 75,000 extra tests have been administered in the last week.

Mr Hancock added that “we are not yet opening up vaccinations to those who are 35 and younger”.

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What the data tells us about the Indian variant

The spread of the Indian variant has raised fears that England’s roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions could be delayed, but a postponement of step four is far from certain at this stage.

Boris Johnson told MPs in the Commons earlier there is “increasing confidence” that the current vaccines will be effective against all variants of the virus, including the Indian variant.

Mr Hancock will address a Downing Street news conference later and will likely face questions about the variant and its potential impact on the roadmap.

The PM said on Tuesday there was “nothing conclusive” at this stage to say step four of the roadmap – lifting all legal limits on social contact on 21 June – could be pushed back.

Mr Johnson said “we will know a lot more in a few days’ time” and promised to “keep people informed” and “continually updated”.

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