Indian variant

The case for delaying 21 June

Word is that Boris Johnson will delay the 21 June re-opening by two weeks, possibly even a month — an announcement that has caused some division of opinion in the offices of The Spectator. In the circumstances (the Indian variant growing exponentially) I can see the case for waiting another week or so until we have more data. That’s not say that I want delay, just that the rise of the Indian variant in the UK has made me see the abolition of remaining restrictions as a finely-balanced argument. Whereas, a few weeks ago, I thought the facts heavily favoured going ahead with a full reopening.  I discuss this with Kate Andrews, Katy

How serious is Britain’s third wave?

The link between Covid cases and hospitalisations has been broken, we keep being told – vaccination having reduced the severity of infections, especially among more vulnerable older groups. It is a point reinforced this morning by Public Health England which reveals that the number of cases of the delta (formerly Indian) variant have increased from 12,431 to 42,323 in a week, but without a corresponding rise in hospitalisations. But how true is it that what looks like a third wave in new infections will not be accompanied by a large wave of hospitalisations? Previous experience with Covid – using PHE data – suggests there is not a very long lag between

Does the Indian variant increase the risk of hospitalisation?

Is the Indian variant really more like to land you in hospital? That is the claim being widely reported this morning, based on Public Health England’s technical briefing 14. The briefing claims that the Indian (or Delta variant) is associated with a ‘significantly increased risk of hospitalisation within 14 days of specimen date.’ If you are infected with the Indian variant you are 2.61 times as like to require hospitalisation within 14 days, relative to the risk if you are infected with the Kent variant. And you are 1.67 times at greater risk of having to seek A&E treatment or be hospitalised. It is only when PHE tried to adjust

Could 21 June be delayed?

There are two key questions ahead of the 21 June reopening. First, as I say in the magazine this week, there is the issue of how much more transmissible the Indian variant is than the Kent one. According to papers published by Sage, it is a ‘realistic possibility’ that it is up to 50 per cent more transmissible. If the true figure is at the top of this range, then a full reopening would likely lead to another big wave of cases and put pressure on hospitals. But the view in Whitehall is that if it is only 30 per cent more transmissible, then it should be safe to proceed

Has India’s second Covid wave peaked?

While the Indian variant continues to dominate the headlines, India itself seems to have dropped out of the news a bit. What is going on there?  It was reported yesterday that India notched up a record number of Covid deaths on Tuesday – 4525 – which indeed was the record of any country during the pandemic. However, that number needs to be put in the context of the country’s population of 1.3 billion. Grim as it is, it works out at 3.5 deaths per million. This is a fraction of the 27.6 deaths per million recorded in Britain on 20 January 2021. Tuesday’s figure is likely to be the high

Will lockdown still end on 21 June?

As the penultimate lockdown easing gets under way, ministers are being asked a question: will the 21 June unlocking be delayed? On Friday, Boris Johnson warned the rise of the Indian variant could ‘pose serious disruption’ to the planned lockdown easing next month, when nearly all Covid restrictions are expected to go. The line from the government hasn’t changed much over the weekend; ministers are keen to say they hope it will go ahead but won’t guarantee it. There is unlikely to be any formal decision until the week before the 21st, when the government will be able to review all the data. If vaccine hesitancy remains an issue in the government’s calculations,

Can Boris keep his roadmap on track?

Boris Johnson’s favourite phrase since he released his roadmap out of lockdown has been ‘cautious but irreversible’. These are the three words that supposedly describe the UK’s six-month timeline to freedom since it went into lockdown at the start of the year.  But the phrase was notably absent from tonight’s press conference. Instead, the Prime Minister warned that the rise of the Indian variant B1617.2 could pose a ‘serious disruption to our progress, and could make it more difficult to move to step 4 in June.’ The government’s worries, as Johnson laid out tonight, are what he described as ‘important unknowns’. The key question is to what extent the virus is more

Ross Clark

Could the Indian variant slow unlocking?

So is the ‘irreversible’ lifting of lockdown really irreversible after all? There is a grim echo of what happened last year in the sudden panic over the Indian variant of SARS-CoV-2. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that he ‘rules nothing out’, following a meeting of the Sage committee over how to respond to the variant. Next month’s proposed reopening of society must now look in doubt. Monday’s relaxation, which will allow indoor hospitality for the first time this year, will for the moment go ahead, but we have seen how quickly these things can change — and with what little notice. Is the Indian variant really more transmissible, or vaccine-evading,

Will our vaccines stop the Indian variant?

As we have often found with Covid-19, no sooner does a path seem to emerge out of the woods than the trees close in again. On Monday, the Prime Minister confirmed that the further relaxation of lockdown rules – including the reopening of indoor hospitality – would go ahead as planned next week. Daily totals of deaths from Covid-19 have been running at very low levels – indeed deaths from all causes are now running 7.3 per cent lower than the recent five-year average, according to the ONS. If the variant is able to get around the vaccine, there may still be a useful effect in preventing hospitalisations and deaths

Why Boris was so reluctant to cancel his India trip

Just a few hours after Boris Johnson confirmed that his trip to India had been postponed, the country has been placed on the government’s red list. Following reports of a new India variant of Covid, travel to the UK is to be banned — with those returning from the country facing hotel quarantine as of 4 a.m. Friday. Announcing the news, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that initial data on the new strain meant that the travel ban had been put in place on a ‘precautionary basis’.  Johnson’s supporters believe he works better in person than on Zoom calls The decision was viewed as inevitable after the Prime Minister’s trip to India