Great Britain

‘Vast majority’ of Indian variant patients in hospital in Bolton hadn’t taken up Covid vaccine, Matt Hancock reveals

THE "vast majority" of people diagnosed with the super-infectious Indian mutation in hotspots Bolton and Blackburn haven't had the vaccine - despite being eligible, Matt Hancock has revealed.

The Health Secretary says he has a "high degree of confidence" that the jab does work against the new variant, which could be up to 50 per cent more transmissible than the Kent strain.

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But the Indian variation is now dominant in some areas of the UK - and the Government is considering further action in Bolton to stamp down on burgeoning cases as lockdown eases again tomorrow.

In an interview with Sophy Ridge on Sky this morning, Mr Hancock said: "There is new, very early data out from Oxford University - I'd stress this is from labs and it is not clinical, but it does give us a high degree of confidence that the vaccine does work against it.

"But it is clearly more transmissible and has been spreading fast."

He urged Brits to remain "very vigilant" as stage three in the Prime Minister's roadmap begins tomorrow - and said we're in a "race" between vaccinations and the variant.

"This new variant has given the virus some extra legs in that race, but we have a high degree of confidence that the vaccine will overcome," he said.

"The main message for everyone is to get vaccinated - if you're in an eligible group, come forward.

"In Bolton, we have seen number of people in hospital with the variant.

"The vast majority have been eligible for jab but not taken it.

"If you're eligible, please come forward - we know the jab protects you."

'Worried' Boris Johnson is sending the Army to places most badly-hit by the Indian variant after experts warned it could cause 1,000 deaths a day.

Soldiers will be deployed on the streets of areas worst hit by the variant to hand out tests and slow the spread. 

It's feared the strain could see up to 10,000 daily hospitalisations by summer.

Troops will help surge-testing efforts in Bolton – which is fighting a spike in infections almost ten times higher than the UK average – and neighbouring Blackburn.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said that it is "highly likely" that the strain is more transmissible. 

And Mr Johnson pledged: "We will be throwing everything we have at this task."   

Today, Mr Hancock admitted the strain "could spread like wildfire".

"Because this variant can spread even faster than Kent variant - and we saw what happened with that - if it gets out of hand there could be a very, very large number of cases, even with protection of vaccinations," he said.

"We do need to make sure we don't get that explosion of cases.

"We always said we want this to be cautious, we really want this to be irreversible, but new variants are one of biggest risks.

"Because of the speed of transmission it can really spread like wildfire among unvaccinated groups."

And he warned that if Sage are right, and transmissibility is 50 per cent higher, it could lead to issues for Britain's roadmap to freedom.

"Epidemiology is all about balance of risks and there are no absolutes," he cautioned.

"If the transmissibility as high as that we will have problem."

And asked about the possibility of tough measures remaining in place in Bolton, he admitted: "We don't rule that out."

Former chief scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport admitted there was "good reason to be concerned" about the mutation.

"We now have a virus that is even more able to transmit than its predecessors, so it becomes a tougher race - that is the critical issue at the moment," he said.

Huge Covid vaccine queue as EVERYONE in Bolton invited to get jab over Indian variant fears

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