Leicester Mercury

‘Alarm bells should ring’ over Indian Covid strain


- By DAN MARTIN daniel.martin@reachplc.com @danjamesma­rtin

“ALARM bells” need to start ringing fast after a rise in cases of an Indian strain of coronaviru­s, MP Jon Ashworth has said.

The Leicester South MP and shadow health secretary says measures need to be taken to contain what the government has described as a coronaviru­s “variant of concern”.

Latest data from Public Health England (PHE) shows a rise in cases from 520 to 1,313 this week in the UK, with the agency saying cases were “rising in the community” and it was assessing the impact and severity of the variant.

Public health officials at Leicester City Council say there has been a small number of further cases of an Indian strain in Leicester on top of three that were confirmed last month, but it has not said exactly how many.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is considerin­g what measures to take to respond to the threat.

Further local lockdowns have not been ruled out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the summer and some scientific experts have urged postponing the upcoming easing of Covid-19 restrictio­ns until the Indian variant can be suppressed.

One response being considered is bringing forward the date for a second dose of vaccine for eligible groups to increase protection.


Surge vaccinatio­n could also be considered, according to Mr Ashworth.

He said: “Some alarm bells need to start ringing. We’re not out of woods yet. We need to contain this variant, fast.

“So-called ‘surge vaccinatio­n’ should be considered. We can break transmissi­on with retrospect­ive and forward contact tracing.”

Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director at PHE, said: “We need to act collective­ly and responsibl­y to ensure that variants do not impact on the progress we have all made to drive down levels of Covid-19 and the increased freedom that brings.”

In Bolton, which has one of the highest case rates of the variant in the country, mobile testing units have been deployed and door-to-door PCR Covid testing has been offered to 22,000 residents.

A vaccine bus has been set up to increase uptake among those who are eligible and a rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmen­tal health officers has been sent in.

 ??  ?? ‘WE’RE NOT OUT OF WOODS YET’: MP Jon Ashworth during a visit to the Covid-19 vaccinatio­n centre at Oadby Racecourse earlier this year
‘WE’RE NOT OUT OF WOODS YET’: MP Jon Ashworth during a visit to the Covid-19 vaccinatio­n centre at Oadby Racecourse earlier this year

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