Vaccine minister tells LBC all four tests must be met for June 21 lockdown easing

14 May 2021, 11:55 | Updated: 14 May 2021, 12:19

By Daisy Stephens

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has stressed the Government's four tests must be met for the June 21 easing of restrictions.

The tests that must be met are the continued success of the vaccination programme, sufficient effectiveness of the vaccines, infection rates remaining low and not threatening to overwhelm the NHS, and a low risk of either of these three being affected by variants of concern.

“The four tests have to be met for the 21 June," Mr Zahawi told LBC's Nick Ferrari when asked if there is a possibility that the June 21 easing could be paused.

"The way we don't have to do that is by everybody doing their bit, by taking the two tests a week, doing your PCR test in those areas, and to isolate, isolate, isolate."

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

Despite the uncertainty, he said that at present the reason for concern over the variant is because of the rise in infections, although he also said they were awaiting “further clinical advice”.

“There is no evidence that this variant delivers a more severe disease in terms of the individual or hospitalisation, nor is there any evidence that it evades the vaccine,” said Mr Zahawi.

“The vaccines are clearly working in terms of hospitalisation and severe infection and deaths, but the infection rate is what is concerning.”

Variant B.1.617.2, one of three strains first found in India, has been designated a variant of concern in the UK.

It has recently seen a sharp rise in cases, rising from 520 to 1,313 this week.

Boris Johnson has admitted the Government are "anxious" about the variant, and said there is “a very wide range of scientific opinion about what could happen”.

Surge testing has been deployed in Bolton, and Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen and South Northamptonshire have also seen a sharp rise in cases.

Recently re-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has called for the Government to vaccinate everyone over the age of 16 in the area to keep a control over the spread of the cases.

Mr Zahawi has said that measures to tackle the variant could include prioritising young people in multi-generational households for vaccines.

There is currently no evidence to suggest the Indian variant can evade vaccines
There is currently no evidence to suggest the Indian variant can evade vaccines. Picture: Getty

However, whilst additional coronavirus vaccine clinics are being set up in Blackburn, the council has said that the jab will not yet be offered to all adults.

Mr Zahawi told LBC that the key to suppressing the Indian variant was effective testing and isolating.

“Viruses get desperate to survive, they mutate by infecting people, and the thing we have to stop is that infection rate,” he said.

“Please take advantage of [surge] tests and get yourself tested… if you’re found to be positive – isolate, isolate, isolate.”