Hancock says he ‘will not hesitate to take further action’ as Indian variant cases surge

13 May 2021, 22:10 | Updated: 13 May 2021, 23:33

Matt Hancock has addressed mounting concern over the Indian coronavirus variant
Matt Hancock has addressed mounting concern over the Indian coronavirus variant. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has insisted the Government "will not hesitate to take further action" as data shows cases of the Indian coronavirus variant have more than doubled in a week.

Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows a rise in cases from 520 to 1,313 this week in the UK.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted the Government was "anxious" about the strain earlier on Thursday.

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A new rapid response team is being deployed in Bolton, additional surge testing will shortly launch in areas such as Formby, and enhanced contact-tracing is in place across England.

In total, surge testing is being deployed in 15 areas across the country.

Other areas to have seen a jump in cases of the Indian variant of concern include Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen and South Northamptonshire.

Ministers are looking at options which could include bringing forward second doses of vaccine for eligible groups.

Mr Hancock said: "This data demonstrates why our swift and decisive measures are in place.

"Everyone has a part to play in controlling this variant, from participating in surge testing, to following the rules, to getting the jab."

He added: "We are committed to working with local areas and deploying our world-leading genomic sequencing to get this variant under control.

"We are supporting areas where the cases of this variant are rising.

"We are monitoring the situation very carefully and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.

"It is imperative we all continue to be vigilant, and if you live in one of the 15 areas where we've introduced surge testing, make sure you get a free PCR test.

"And everyone who's eligible needs to come forward and get a jab."

Mr Johnson said earlier there was "a very wide range of scientific opinion about what could happen".

He said: "We want to make sure we take all the prudential, cautious steps now that we could take, so there are meetings going on today to consider exactly what we need to do.

"There is a range of things we could do, we are ruling nothing out."

Asked if local lockdowns were possible, Mr Johnson added: "There are a range of things we could do, we want to make sure we grip it.

"Obviously there's surge testing, there's surge tracing.

"If we have to do other things, then of course the public would want us to rule nothing out.

"We have always been clear we would be led by the data."

Mr Johnson confirmed England's roadmap out of lockdown would be going ahead as planned and from May 17 a raft of restrictions will be lifted.

But he said: "There may be things we have to do locally and we will not hesitate to do them if that is the advice we get."

The European Medicines Agency said on Wednesday it was "pretty confident" that vaccines currently in use are effective against the Indian variant - a view echoed by some British scientists.