In view of the concerns raised over the COVID-19 variant first identified in India, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday, 14 May, said that the time period between the two vaccine doses for people over 50 and other vulnerable groups will be reduced to only 8 weeks, and that the variant could cause ‘serious disruption’ to England’s reopening.
Previously, the time period suggested between two doses was 12 weeks.
Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, the BBC quoted Johnson as saying that if the variant first identified in India was found to be "significantly" more transmissible "we are likely to face some hard choices.”
He added, “I have to level with you that this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress and could make it more difficult to move to step four in June,” BBC reported.
However, the UK PM said that he did not believe it was "impossible" to go ahead with step four of lifting COVID restrictions, but that they “have to be utterly realistic" and there was "the risk of disruption and delay", BBC reported.
With the fourth and final step, the British government’s aim is to lift all legal limits on social contact on 21 June, with no limits on indoor or outdoor gatherings.
At present, the next stage in England’s lifting of COVID curbs will be effective on Monday, 17 May, when pubs and restaurants will be allowed to host customers indoors and six people can be gathered together in a private home.
For 21 June, the government has said easing restrictions depends on its four tests being met – including vaccines continuing to display efficacy and the risks not being fundamentally changed by new variants.
A per Public Health England figures, cases of the 'double mutant’ COVID variant have nearly tripled in the UK in the last 7 days, BBC reported.
Fifteen regions across the country, including Bolton, Blackburn, London, Sefton, and Nottingham are already undertaking surge testing.
Friday's official figures showed that 17 more people died in the UK within 28 days of a positive test and 2,193 new COVID-19 infections were recorded.
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