Indian Covid variant in UK calls into question 17 May reopening date, experts say 6 months ago

Indian Covid variant in UK calls into question 17 May reopening date, experts say

The Indian variant surges in Bolton as the UK prepares to ease restrictions next week

The sharp rise in UK cases of the Indian Covid-19 variant could threaten the UK's step-by-step roadmap for reopening the country, scientists are cautioning.


This comes just days after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that UK is set to go ahead with stage three of the roadmap out of lockdown, which will enable the return of domestic overnight stays, indoor hospitality, indoor entertainment and indoor adult sport from 17 May.

On Friday, Public Health England classified the Indian variant of Covid-19, called B.1.617.2, as a "variant of concern", adding that the variant is at least as transmissible as the dominant Kent variant in the UK. The Indian variant has two other closely-related variants referred to as B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.3.

Despite the success of the vaccine rollout in the UK, it currently remains unclear whether the Indian variant can reduce the efficacy of the Covid vaccine.

As reported by the Guardian, Prof Christina Pagel, a member of the Independent SAGE group and a director of the clinical operational research unit at UCL, speaking in an individual capacity said the rise in cases of the Indian variant were concerning enough to delay the next phase of the country's roadmap out of lockdown, which is set to ease restrictions on 17 May.

The Indian variant now joins the South African variant and the Kent variant as a "variant of concern," the Chief Medical Officer confirmed in a press conference on Monday.

The CMO said: "We have a concern at the moment about a variant called B.1.617.2, first described in India, and this is actually spreading from very small amounts, but it is beginning to spread in certain parts of the country and we need to keep quite a close eye on this."


The Indian variant has spread rapidly in Bolton in recent weeks, with many cases believed to be from people returning back to the UK from India. Many of those infected are believed to be under 25 years old.

This has prompted the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to urge officials from The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to enable people in Greater Manchester to get vaccinated more quickly in response to the increase in cases of the variant of concern.