British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a televised press conference at 10 Downing Street on February 22, 2021 in London, England.
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LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Friday that the variant of the coronavirus, first discovered in India, has the potential to prevent the easing easing currently underway in the country.
The UK is now set to accelerate the second dose of vaccine for those over 50 and clinically at risk due to concerns about the Indian variant.
At a news conference on Friday, Johnson said the variant was more transmissible than other strains but warned it was not clear by how much. The English chief physician Chris Whitty speaks alongside Johnson, added that there is “confidence” that it is “more transferable” than the variants already circulating in the country.
Whitty said, “Earlier this week we said we thought it was as transferable as B.1.1.7 and possibly even more. There is now confidence … that this variation is more transferable than B.1.1.7 . “
The B.1.1.7 variant, known as the UK or Kent strain, has an unusually high number of mutations and is associated with more efficient and faster transmission of the coronavirus. British scientists first discovered this mutation in September last year, and it was the dominant strain in the United States by April
Johnson added that there is currently no evidence that the variant would dodge the vaccines that are being used across the country.
“But I have to measure myself with you, this new variant could seriously disrupt our progress,” said Johnson.
“And I have to emphasize that we will do everything we can to protect the public.”
Data on the new variant, released Thursday by Public Health England, showed the number of cases across the UK had increased from 520 last week to 1,313 this week, with most cases in North West England and some clusters concentrated in London.
The introduction of vaccines in the UK was one of the fastest in the world. Almost 70% of the adult population received at least one shot. Vaccines are available to anyone over the age of 38, but the government has said they could be made available to younger people in multi-generational households.
The next phase of England’s exit from the lockdown is slated for Monday, when the conviviality, hospitality and indoor entertainment will resume.
– CNBC’s Elliot Smith contributed to this article.