Britain's health secretary Matt Hancock holds a news conference at 10 Downing Street, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.(File Photo / REUTERS)
Britain's health secretary Matt Hancock holds a news conference at 10 Downing Street, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.(File Photo / REUTERS)

England ‘long way’ from easing virus lockdown, says govt as experts' concerns over ‘vaccine escape’ grow

The virus variants have triggered concerns among the health experts and scientific community at a time when the government is trying to contain the pandemic through vaccination.
By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Kunal Gaurav
UPDATED ON JAN 24, 2021 06:37 PM IST

British health secretary Matt Hancock on Sunday said that England is a “long way” from easing restrictions, given the enormous pressure on National Health Service (NHS). The United Kingdom has been witnessing a surge in the cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) after different imported variants of coronavirus were detected in the country. Hancock said that Britain has detected 77 cases of the South African variant and nine cases of a Brazilian variant.

“There is early evidence that the lockdown is starting to bring cases down. But we're a long, long, long way from that from being low enough because the case rate was incredibly high and you can see the pressure on the NHS. You can see it every day,” the health minister told Sky News.

The virus variants have triggered concerns among the health experts and scientific community at a time when the government is trying to contain the pandemic through vaccination. The UK has been reporting over 1,000 Covid-19 related deaths for the last five days. The country has recorded the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe with more than 97,000 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center.

Watch | 'New UK variant of coronavirus may be more deadly': Boris Johnson

Oxford professor Anthony Harnden, who serves as deputy chair of a scientific committee on vaccination, told Sky News that the new variants are a “real worry” because Covid-19 vaccines may not be effective against them. “The South African and the Brazilian Amazonian ones, there are hints that there will be vaccine escape," he warned.

Though there have been speculations around a possible blanket ban on inbound travellers amid fears of new virus variants, Hancock said that the government will stick to a “precautionary principle”. The health secretary stressed that pre-departure testing has been strictly implemented to prevent the spread of a new variant.

"But it is absolutely vital that we protect this country from a new variant that may not be as well dealt with by the vaccine. We cannot risk the progress that we have made,” he added.

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