LONDON: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday laid out the next stage in his Covid-19 pandemic lockdown easing roadmap, with indoor gatherings and hugging to be allowed again within a “cautious and common sense” approach.
Addressing a Downing Street press conference, Johnson declared that the tests he had set for the country to move to the next stage of reopening from next Monday have been met as the UK recorded the lowest level of pandemic deaths since July last year.
However, he struck a note caution and pointed to the need to monitor new variants of coronavirus, including the so-called Indian variant which has now been classed as a Variant of Concern (VOC) by Public Health England (PHE).
“This is a very considerable unlocking. But it’s got to be done in a way that is cautious… we have just got to monitor the Indian variant, other variants,” said Johnson.
He was joined at the briefing by Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, who in his update on the pandemic circulation said that one of three subtypes of the Indian variant was of “some concern” as it showed a rise in numbers “sharply” in some parts of the UK from very low levels.
“So that has to be monitored very carefully,” said Whitty.
The Indian variant subtype B.1.617.2, which was found to be at least as highly transmissible as the dominant Kent variant in England, was designated as a VOC by PHE last week after over 500 cases were found in parts of England. It is among a list of variants, including South African and Brazilian variants, currently being monitored as VOCs in Britain.