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UK Health Secretary says Indian variant of Covid-19 could ‘spread like wildfire among the unvaccinated’

UK Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock has warned that the new Indian variant of Covid-19 could spread like “wildfire” among those who are unvaccinated, but suggested early data indicates vaccines work against it.

In a Sunday interview with Sky News, Hancock said the Indian variant is “becoming the dominant strain in some parts of the country,” such as Bolton and Blackburn, but early data gives the government “a degree of confidence that the vaccines work against” it.

“We're in a race between the vaccination program and the virus and this new variant has given this virus some extra legs in that race,” he explained, “But… we have a high degree of confidence that the vaccine will overcome.”

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Hancock warned that due to the variant’s speed of transmission, it “can really spread like wildfire among the unvaccinated,” and so the government is focusing on getting as many people vaccinated as possible, though with a focus on those “most vulnerable to ending up in hospital.”

Over 1,300 cases of the Indian variant have been recorded in the UK so far, according to Hancock.

He also revealed that the government will make its final decision on whether Stage 4 of the lifting of lockdown restrictions will go ahead on June 14th. If the government deems reopening to be safe, the final restrictions – including social distancing rules and a ban on nightclubs – could be lifted on June 21st.

Stage 3 is set to commence on Monday and will allow people to meet up in large groups outside, and small groups to meet inside. Indoor hospitality and entertainment such as restaurants, pubs, cinemas and museums will reopen, and a larger number of people will be allowed to attend weddings and funerals.

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