Recap: Boris Johnson leads Downing Street press conference amid Indian variant concerns
Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a Downing Street press conference amid concerns over the Indian variant of Covid-19.
The PM was joined by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.
Boris Johnson told the press conference that the Indian variant of Covid-19 could pose a threat to step four of lifting lockdown, which would see large scale events return and all remaining social distancing measures removed.
He said: “I do not believe that we need, on the present evidence, to delay our road map and we will proceed with our plan to move to step three in England from Monday.
“But I have to level with you that this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress and could make it more difficult to move to step four in June.”
The Prime Minister also said that the remaining second vaccine doses for the over-50s will be accelerated so they are eight weeks apart.
UK cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus more than doubled in the past week to 1,313 cases up from 520 the previous week.
The Indian variant is one of four strains designated as “of concern” by UK authorities, as well as those which emerged from Kent, South Africa and Brazil.
Scroll down for updates from the press conference.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds Downing Street press briefing over Indian variant concerns
Last updated: Friday, 14 May, 2021, 18:19
- Lockdown measures will be further eased as planned on Monday
- But the Indian variant of Covid-19 could “make it more difficult” to move to step four of lifting lockdown
- Second jabs for over-50s and the vulnerable will be accelerated
- UK cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus have more than doubled in the past week
- The strain has also been found in the North East, with 19 cases detected in the region so far
- There are fears the Indian variant could be more resistant to vaccines and threaten lockdown easing plans
England R number remains unchanged
The coronavirus reproduction number, or R value, in England remains unchanged from last week and is between 0.8 and 1, according to the latest Government figures.
R represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.
When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially, but when it is below 1, it means the epidemic is shrinking.
An R number between between 0.8 and 1 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 8 and 10 other people.
More than 36 million people have received a dose of the vaccine
Government data up to May 13 shows that of the 55,434,965 jabs given in the UK so far, 36,115,955 were first doses – a rise of 209,284 on the previous day.
Some 19,319,010 were second doses, an increase of 428,041.
Where Indian variant is dominant in the UK
The majority of cases of the Indian Covid strain are concentrated in the north-west of England, predominantly in Bolton, and in London.
The variant is also thought to be the reason behind half of coronavirus infections in Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen and South Northamptonshire, although these outbreaks are still small.
Downing Street press conference begins
The Prime Minister has started today’s press briefing from Downing Street. He is joined by England’s Chief Medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.
Indian variant ‘more transmissible’, but not yet clear by how much
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that it is believed that the Indian variant of the coronavirus is more transmissible, but it’s not yet clear by how much.
He added that so far there is no evidence that vaccines will be less effective in protecting people against severe illness and hospitalisation.
New variant “could make it more difficult” to move to step four of lockdown easing
The Prime Minister has told the Downing Street press conference that the new variant “could pose a serious disruption to our progress and could make it more difficult to move to step four in June.”
Boris Johnson said: “We will do whatever it takes to keep the public safe.”
He urged people to remain cautious and follow the rules.
Second jabs for over 50s and vulnerable to be accelerated
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said second vaccine doses for those aged over 50 and the vulnerable will be accelerated, so that they are eight weeks apart.
Restrictions to be eased as planned on Monday
The Prime Minister has told the Downing Street press conference: “I do not believe that we need, on the present evidence, to delay our road map and we will proceed with our plan to move to step three in England from Monday.”
‘Hard choices’ to be faced if Indian variant proves to be ‘significantly more transmissible’
Boris Johnson has said that if the Indian variant proves to be “significantly more transmissible” than other strains “we’re likely to face some hard choices”.
The Prime Minister told the Downing Street press conference: “I’m told that if it is only marginally more transmissible we can continue more or less as planned but if the variant is significantly more transmissible we’re likely to face some hard choices.”
Army deployed to North West to help with surge testing
The Prime Minister has said the army would be deployed on the streets of Blackburn and Bolton in the North West handing out tests to help the surge testing efforts.
There will also be an acceleration of the vaccine rollout there, including longer opening hours at vaccination centres.
“If you’re seeing loved ones, think really carefully about the risk to them, especially if they haven’t had that second dose or if it hasn’t yet had time to take full effect,” he said.
He added: “I want us to trust people to be responsible, and to do the right thing. That’s the way to live with this virus while protecting the NHS and restoring our freedoms.
“It’s very clear now we’re going to have to live with this new variant of the virus for some time so let’s work together, and let’s exercise caution and common sense.”
For how long could step four of lockdown easing be delayed?
Asked about how long step four of the lockdown easing could be delayed for, the Prime Minister said he “can’t speculate” until there is more information about the Indian variant.
Boris Johnson told the Downing Street press conference: “I really can’t speculate about that in too much detail at this stage.”
“We need to be absolutely clear about transmissibility and about the effect of the vaccines on this new variant and we’ll know a lot more in a couple of weeks.”
He added that “it is also possible that we could still be on the right track.”