Boris Johnson hints at ‘hard choices’ as Indian coronavirus variant spreads

UK sticks to reopening plan, but the prime minister warned that could change if the new variant spreads.

Boris Johnson hints at ‘hard choices’ as Indian coronavirus variant spreads

LONDON — The U.K. will accelerate its coronavirus vaccine push for priority groups in a bid to halt the spread of the Indian variant, which the prime minister warned on Friday could force Britain to make “hard choices” in coming weeks.

Boris Johnson confirmed that the U.K. will move ahead with the third phase of the government’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions, which will see the restart of indoor seating at bars and restaurants and the resumption of travel to a limited list of countries deemed safe.

Johnson said, however, that the spread of the variant circulating in India posed a threat to the fourth and last step of the roadmap — due June 21 — which would allow the return of weddings and major events and the removal of social distancing rules.

Speaking at a press conference, Johnson said the U.K. will offer second doses to people over 50 and the clinically vulnerable eight weeks before taking the first dose, rather than the initial plan of waiting 12 weeks between doses. The U.K. will also prioritize first doses for anyone eligible who has not yet booked an appointment, including those over 40. But Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said this should not lead to “significant delays” in the vaccination of younger groups.

Johnson’s comments come as the U.K. reported the deaths of four people with the Indian variant of the virus last week. Public Health England said Thursday that 1,313 cases of the Indian variant had been detected in England in the last week, more than double the figure of the previous week.

“I believe we should trust in our vaccines to protect the public whilst monitoring the situation as it develops very closely because the race between our vaccination program and the virus may be about to become a great deal tighter, and it’s more important than ever, therefore, that people get the additional protection of a second dose,” he said.

Johnson said the Indian variant was “only marginally more transmissible” than the Kent variant, which was dominant in the last wave of the U.K.’s coronavirus cases. But he warned: “If the [Indian] variant is significantly more transmissible, we are likely to face some hard choices.”

“I do not believe that we need, on the present evidence, to delay our roadmap and we will proceed to move to step three in England on Monday. But I must level with you that this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress and could make it more difficult to move to step four in June. And I must stress that we will do whatever it takes to keep the public safe.”

The Indian variant is believed to be spreading in specific areas of the U.K., such as Bolton and Blackburn. The prime minister said the army would be deployed on the streets of these towns to hand out tests to the public. Efforts to vaccinate the cities’ residents will also step up, with vaccination centers opening for longer hours.

The U.K. added India to its “red list” of countries in April, meaning all arrivals from the country would have to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days. Johnson urged people to “think twice” before traveling to areas with higher numbers of cases of the Indian variant.

Source : Politico EU More   

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WHO chief: Vaccination of kids a ‘moral catastrophe’ as health workers await jabs

The US and Canada have both authorized the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine for children as young as 12.

WHO chief: Vaccination of kids a ‘moral catastrophe’ as health workers await jabs

The world is now witnessing a “moral catastrophe” play out as children and adolescents are being vaccinated in some wealthy countries, while health care workers in poor nations go without, said the World Health Organization’s Executive Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday.

“In a handful of rich countries which have bought up the majority of the vaccine supply, lower-risk groups are now being vaccinated,” he said. “I urge them to reconsider and to instead donate vaccines to COVAX.” 

Pointing to the fact that only 0.3 percent of vaccines are going to low-income countries, Tedros said that the supply in low- and lower-middle-income countries wasn’t even enough to immunize health workers, with hospitals being inundated with cases.

The U.S. and Canada have both authorized the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine for children as young as 12. However, on Thursday Kate O’Brien, director of the WHO’s department of immunization, vaccines and biologicals, said that just because a vaccine is authorized for children, doesn’t mean that countries should be prioritizing them. 

Vaccines are available for teenagers aged 16 and over across the U.S., with those aged 12 to 15 being able to get their jabs in some states already. A similar situation has played out in Canada’s provinces and territories, with vaccination appointments starting to be booked for children aged 12 to 15. 

Source : Politico EU More   

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