Surge testing and Covid vaccines will be expanded to six new areas of concern in England in a bid to tackle the spread of the Indian Covid variant, Matt Hancock has announced.
The Indian Covid variant has now been found in a multitude of places across the country, with the Government identifying the six areas of concerts by analysing wastewater and travel patterns.
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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said early evidence suggested that the Indian Covid variant - also known as B.1.617.2 - passes on more easily from person to person than the one first discovered in Kent.
Mr Hancock said ministers were "determined to do all that we can to ensure this new variant doesn't put our recovery at risk".
Further surge testing and vaccinations will therefore now be introduced in:
- North Tyneside
The monitoring of travel patterns, as well as the analysis of wastewater, helped to identify where variants were in the country, and also where they were at risk of spreading to.
Nearly 3,000 cases of the Indian variant have now been identified in the UK, which is up from about 2,300 on Monday (17 May).
Mr Hancock said: "The weekly case data in Bolton is now 283 per 100,000 and it doubled in the last week.
"There are now 25 people in Bolton Hospital with Covid - the majority are unvaccinated, nearly 90% have not yet had two vaccines.”
The Health Secretary also urged people to get their Covid jab when invited to do so.
He said the current data “shows the importance of getting vaccinated, not once but twice."
‘Make sure that we outrun the virus through really vigorous pull-through on vaccine delivery’
England's deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said that scientists will know more about the transmissibility of the new Indian variant by "some time next week".
Prof Van-Tam also said the jab-rate over the next few weeks would be crucial in order to ensure the Prime Minister could lift all Covid restrictions on 21 June.
He told a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday (19 May): “I pitch this personally as a straight race between the transmissibility of this new variant … and vaccine delivery.
“The NHS is doing everything it can to turbo-boost that, and that is the challenge that’s ahead of us in the next two to three to four weeks, to make sure that we outrun the virus through really vigorous pull-through on vaccine delivery.”
NHS England has now confirmed that those aged 34 and 35 will receive a text message on Thursday (20 May) or Friday (21 May) asking them to come forward for their Covid vaccine.