'It's too grand a gesture to delay roadmap for Indian Covid variant,' says top physician

14 May 2021, 12:03 | Updated: 14 May 2021, 12:04

By Tim Dodd

As Boris Johnson expresses serious concern about the Indian Covid variant, Independent SAGE member Dr Gabriel Scally claims that delaying the roadmap would be "too grand a gesture" - and instead it should be dealt with locally.

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock insists the Government "will not hesitate to take further action" over data showing cases of the Indian coronavirus variant have more than doubled in a week.

Tom Swarbrick began by asking Dr. Scally about whether the roadmap should be paused.

Dr. Scally responded, "Well I think that would be too grand a gesture if it was on a national basis. But we've got to realise that it's not the same right across the country, and there are places like Blackburn or Bolton that have really still got a high number of cases and the virus is still spreading.

"And we know what happened the last year, the first big lockdown, there were some local authorities in that Greater Manchester area where the virus was still spreading freely and that formed the nucleus for its spread later.

"Vaccination has changed everything, but it won't get rid of the virus - certainly not in the short term - because there are lots of people who still aren't vaccinated. We will get illness, it will probably not be deaths, and it will certainly result in long Covid as well."

READ MORE: Indian variant: How many cases are in the UK? Is it more dangerous?

Tom Swarbrick asked: "Does that mean local lockdowns? I see that Blackburn local authorities are going to make Pfizer available to everybody over the age of 18, which is a departure from the national roll out and was not approved by central government."

Dr. Scally replied: "I don't really care whether it's approved by central government or not. If it's a help to the local public health people in those places well then that's absolutely what should happen, and I agree with Andy Burnham's call for it to be extended."

On the idea of local lockdowns, Dr Scally said: "The problem is that the Government has used it as just about the only resort. It's highly problematic. What we need are really good, local public health responses."

The lockdown is set to completely end on 21 June, with 17 May marking the next stage of lockdown easing: the return of hugging, the resumption of international travel and the indoor reopening of pubs.

People in England will be able to meet in pubs, bars and restaurants in groups of six or as two households, meaning no more requirement for only outdoor seating.

They will also be allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30 people. All remaining accommodation, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs, can also reopen to the public.