Tuesday, 28 September, 2021

Delta variant '40% more transmissible': United Kingdom health minister

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock Too soon to say if England lockdown will end on 21 June UK health ministerPremiumBritain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock
Deanna Wagner | 07 June, 2021, 17:37

Mr Hancock admitted the emergence of the Indian variant, which has become dominant in the United Kingdom, had made the "calculation" on whether to proceed with unlocking this month "more difficult" as he confirmed the latest scientific advice is that the mutation - also known as the Delta variant - is 40% more transmissible than the Kent strain. But people who have received two doses of vaccine, should be equally protected against either variant, he added. "That means that it is more hard to manage this virus with the new Delta variant", Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News, referring to the Indian strain by its formal designation.

Ministers are "absolutely open" to delaying the unlocking in England, he said.

The health secretary also said vaccines would be opened up to under-30s in the next few days - the government remains on course to hit its target of offering all adults a first jab by the end of July. Independent SAGE, a group of British scientists focused on providing guidance to the government, issued an "emergency statement" last week said stalling the existing plans to lift the last restrictions could help "avoid another full lockdown".

He said: "The majority of people going into hospital right now are unvaccinated". One of the four critical tests set by the government for a reopening is that the assessment of the risk from the deadly virus is not fundamentally changed by new VOC.

"We just don't know the potential for that to be (a) vaccine-defeating mutation and simply don't want to take the risk as we come up to June 21", UK Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said.

"We are not saying "No" to June 21 at this point", Matt Hancock said.

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He also suggested social distancing, wearing of face masks and working from home could be extended beyond the final stage of the government's "road map".

"Yes, I wouldn't rule that out", Mr Hancock told the BBC.

Latest NHS data revealed on Sunday that more than half of the people in England are now fully vaccinated, with 23,077,511 people receiving both doses, and over three-quarters of the adult population in England have now been vaccinated, with 33,525,485 first doses delivered.

Hancock stressed the importance of Britons getting their vaccinations.

The UK has recorded 5,341 new Covid cases and four deaths, official figures show.