Indian variant can "spread like wildfire" among unvaccinated, Matt Hancock warns
Hancock has urged all those eligible for the jab to come forward amid concerns for the Indian Covid variant
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the Indian variant, which was been classified by Public Health England as a "variant of concern", can "spread like wildfire" among those who have not been vaccinated.
This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a press conference on Friday that, on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the country will accelerate second doses to the over 50s and those clinically vulnerable, as well as prioritising jabs for eligible people who have not yet come forward.
The PM said scientists believe the Indian variant is more transmissible than the dominant 'Kent variant', which triggered the surge of cases in December.
The Health Secretary urged people this morning to come forward and get their vaccination if they are eligible amid concerns of the new Indian variant of Covid-19, called B.1.617.2.
Speaking to Sky News, Matt Hancock said: "We've seen just over 1,300 cases of this Indian variant. It is becoming the dominant strain in some parts of the country, for instance in Bolton and in Blackburn."
The Health Secretary said that the new variant also exists in "smaller numbers" in other parts of the country.
Hancock reiterated the PM's words this morning when he said: "We are in a race between the vaccination programme and the virus." The Health Secretary added that the new Indian variant has "given the virus some extra legs in that race."
Hancock encouraged people who are eligible for the vaccine to come forward, particularly those in virus hotspots such as Bolton, where he says the "vast majority" of people in hospital have been offered a vaccine but have not yet taken up the jab.
We’re in a race between the vaccination programme & the virus & this new variant has given the virus some extra legs in that race.
If you’re eligible for the jab, if you’re over the age of 38, please come forward & get the jab. pic.twitter.com/LYygsgLLT1
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) May 16, 2021
The new "variant of concern" threatens step four of the Prime Minister's step-by-step roadmap, which could see all legal restrictions on socialising being lifted on June 21.
Hancock said that the government will make a final decision for 'stage four' of the roadmap on 14 June.