Sage to hold 'urgent meeting' today to discuss dramatic rise of Indian variant as scientists fear roadmap delays

THE government's scientific advisers will hold an emergency meeting today to discuss the rise of Indian variant Covid cases.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) fear the jump in infections may hit Boris Johnson's June 21 date to ease restrictions further.

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Cases of the Indian variant are said to have more than tripled in a week, with the Prime Minister admitting the surge is "of increasing concern".

A member of Sage told the i newspaper "a delay is possible" to next month's final step out of lockdown.

When asked about local lockdowns being brought in to tackle any rise oin cases, George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, admiitted that the Government “can’t rule anything out”.

But Downing Street is confident Britain's vaccine rollout will combat any new wave of infections.

It comes as:

  • Experts warned that the Indian variant could be up to 60 per cent more transmissible than the Kent strain
  • The work-from-home order should END next month when lockdown is over, the PM said today
  • New variants pose a 'lethal danger' and could spark the worst Covid wave yet, Boris Johnson warned
  • The government announced a full public inquiry into coronavirus, beginning in Spring 2022
  • A senior minister refused to rule out local lockdowns to crack down on Covid hotspots

More than 36million people in the UK have had at least one dose of a vaccine, with 18.4m receiving both jabs,

The Sun revealed today that masks in shops and offices, as well as social distancing, are heading for the chop on June 21.

Sage had previously estimated that a third wave could kill 100,000 Brits.

But in estimates released this week it revised the number down to 9,000 deaths "in the worst case scenario" by June 2022.

Pfizer believes its vaccine will work against the Indian variant, withthe European Medicines Agency (EMA) saying there is promising evidence” the jabs will counter the strain.

There is also evidence the AstraZeneca vaccine will offer protection from death or serious injury from the virus variant.

The B.1.617.2 variant is believed to make up half of all Covid infections in London, Bedford and South Northamptonshire and be spreading 60 per faster than other strains of the virus.

Bolton has seen the highest rise in Indian variant cases, as overall infectionsleapt by 93 per cent in a week.

Public Health England has launched surge testing in Bolton to tackle the spread.

Erewash in Derbyshire, Blackburn, Bedford, South Northamptonshire and Sefton and London have also seen increases.

There are three Indian variants in the UK, named B.1.617, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3.

Research by The Telegraph found that the main Indian variant of concern – B.1.617.2 – has spread three times as fast as other Covid variants.

Yesterday, case numbers in the UK rose by 2,284, up by seven per cent on last Tuesday's figure.

Mr Johnson stressed the need for caution and vigilance as lockdown is eased, with the next step on May 17.

He said "the end of the lockdown is not the end of the pandemic".

"The World Health Organisation has said that the pandemic has now reached its global peak and will last throughout this year," Mr Johnson told the Commons today.

On Tuesday, Professor Paul Hunter, from the Norwich School of Medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: “Fortunately as yet there is no sign that hospitalisations have started to increase in the UK.

“There has been a lot of debate about when and if a further wave of infection will happen in the UK. The reports of today suggest that this wave may have already begun. 

“That hospitalisations have yet to increase would be consistent with the view that vaccine is still effective at reducing the risk of severe disease and gives hope that this new wave, if it indeed continues, will be less damaging to the NHS.”

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