PM hints at lockdown extension as Indian Covid variant cases double in week

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Boris Johnson has said the Government is "ruling nothing out" in tackling the Indian variant of concern as new figures show cases have more than doubled in a week.

Public health bosses called for people to act "responsibly" amid warnings by scientists rising case numbers could delay the end of lockdown.

Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows a rise in cases from 520 to 1,313 this week in the UK.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director at PHE, said: "We need to act collectively and responsibly to ensure that variants do not impact on the progress we have all made to drive down levels of Covid-19 and the increased freedom that brings."

The Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) committee held an urgent meeting on Thursday to discuss the variant.

The Prime Minister said: "It is a variant of concern, we are anxious about it.

"At the moment there is a very wide range of scientific opinion about what could happen.

"We want to make sure we take all the prudential, cautious steps now that we could take, so there are meetings going on today to consider exactly what we need to do.

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"There is a range of things we could do, we are ruling nothing out."

In Bolton, which has one of the highest case rates of the variant in the country, mobile testing units and door-to-door testing has been implemented.

Asked if local lockdowns were possible, Mr Johnson said: "There are a range of things we could do, we want to make sure we grip it.

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"Obviously there's surge testing, there's surge tracing.

"If we have to do other things, then of course the public would want us to rule nothing out."

But at the moment he could see "nothing that dissuades me from thinking we will be able to go ahead" on Monday, when lockdown restrictions are due to be eased.

He said the same for June 21, when all restrictions on social contact are due to end.

There "may be things we have to do locally", he added.

PHE said cases of the variant and any clusters are being "rapidly investigated" to identify the contacts of anyone who tests positive.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly suggested on Thursday the lockdown date could change if the variant leads to a spike in cases.

But he insisted the UK is well placed due to the success of the vaccine rollout.

  • Coronavirus
  • Lockdown

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