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Coronavirus news: More than 2,300 Indian variant cases in UK, as Labour condemns red list ‘misstep’

·1-min read
People queue to receive a Covid vaccine at a temporary vaccination centre at the Essa academy in Bolton, as the Indian variant rips through the northern Town (AFP via Getty Images)
People queue to receive a Covid vaccine at a temporary vaccination centre at the Essa academy in Bolton, as the Indian variant rips through the northern Town (AFP via Getty Images)

Matt Hancock has reported a “huge rise” in cases of the Indian coronavirus variant within the UK, telling MPs in an address to the Commons there are “now 2,323 confirmed cases of B.1617.2” here.

Some “483 of these cases have been seen in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, where it’s now the dominant strain,” the health secretary told colleagues.

He also claimed cases of the variant had “doubled in the last week and are rising in all age groups” but considering official data from the end of last week revealed 1,313 cases of it here, this is not quite the case.

Responding to the “urgent question” address, Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Tories’ delay in adding India to the travel red list was a “catastrophic misstep”. Describing the UK’s borders as being “about as secure as a sieve”, Mr Ashworth queried if the delay in action was caused by Boris Johnson’s intended trip to the country.

It comes after the prime minister earlier backtracked on a promise to reveal this month whether social distancing will end on 21 June, blaming the “new threat” from the Indian variant.

Only a week ago, the prime minister said he expected to scrap the “1 metre-plus rule” – however his spokesman pulled the deadline for setting out plans by the end of May, saying: “We can’t be definitive at this point, because of the variant that has been identified.”

There are mounting fears the spread of the Indian Covid-19 variant could delay the end of lockdown next month.

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