Ministers have not ruled out a return to localised lockdowns in response to the upsurge in the Indian variant of Covid-19 in the UK, health secretary Matt Hancock has said.
Mr Hancock told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that he “very much hopes” that the planned national removal of England-wide restrictions will go ahead on 21 June, but said it was too early to say whether it is safe to go ahead.
The health secretary said that early results from tests at Oxford University gave “a high degree of confidence” that vaccines work against the B1.617.2 strain of Covid-19.
But he revealed that five people in Indian variant hotspot Bolton have ended up in hospital despite having had one jab and one – who he described as “frail” – after having two doses of vaccine. None has died.
Mr Hancock said that if the variant is as much as 50 per cent more transmissible than previous strains – as some scientists fear – it could lead to “a very, very large number of cases”, even with much of the adult population vaccinated.