Skip to main content

COVID-19 – Indian (variant) summer

18 May 2021

By Pearce Branigan

Just in time for the announcement of further lockdown restrictions being eased on Monday 17 May, was the grey cloud of another COVID-19 strain being discovered, described as the ‘Indian variant’. 

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, announced that 2,323 cases of the variant had been confirmed to date (an increase from 1,313 on 13 May), with 483 of those originating in the North West, specifically, Bolton and Blackburn, alongside spikes seen across Greater London.

Suggesting the nation faced a “race between the virus and the vaccine”, Mr Hancock refrained to consider calls from the Labour Party to pursue the vaccination of all adults in the most affected areas, affirming surge testing as the best remedy.

To date, 35,000 more tests have been distributed in the areas of Bolton and Blackburn affected, whilst a separate push is undertaken to target those eligible for vaccinations, of which some 6,000 have already been completed.

The government has been criticised by the opposition parties, as well as former Number 10 Special Adviser Dominic Cummings (more on this next week when Cummings is due in front of the Health and Social Care, and Science and Technology Committees), for its border policy in failing to move India onto the ‘red list’ of countries sooner, only doing so following the Prime Minister’s aborted visit to the country on 23 April.

It is mooted that the Prime Minister will now delay further plans to review lifting the remaining lockdown measures, with the 21 June date being thrown into jeopardy with the risk of further lockdowns a looming reality.

This has led to outcry amongst a number of Conservative backbenchers, who have staunchly opposed the backtracking over ending lockdowns.

However, the Prime Minister was today quoted as suggesting the easing in lockdown would occur by 21 June, clarifying “I don’t see anything conclusive at the moment to say that we need to deviate from the road map.”

As for now, the country waits with bated breath to see how extensive the risk of the new COVID-19 strain is to the UK and whether we face the summer in lockdown.