India mutation: Boris Johnson urged to extend red travel list as variant threat grows

India variant: Expert says red list should be extended

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India has been experiencing a dramatic surge in new coronavirus infections due to a newly discovered double-mutation in the virus. Despite the concerning case rise and the variant having been identified in the UK as well, the South Asia country has not been subjected to any travel ban so far. Boris Johnson has been urged to extend the red travel list to include India as well as other countries with less severe virus surges.

Speaking to LBC, medicine professor Paul Hunter said: “I think if we’re going to have a traffic light system for international cases, I would certainly believe that India should be on the red list along with other countries that actually don’t have as big a problem as India has.”

Asked about the impact such restrictions would have on the spread of the virus across the UK, Prof Hunter admitted they would not work “in the long run” but the delay it would cause would help the development of more efficient vaccines against the double-mutation.

He continued: “It depends on how tight those restrictions are and how infectious the agent is but they do have value.

“They do delay the transmission of infectious disease internationally.

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“What we saw in February would probably happen eventually, where even if we banned all trade between here and China, it would have come in as it did from Italy, and Spain and France.

“They ultimately don’t work in the long term but they can delay things.”

He added: “And at the moment, with the vaccine being rolled out, and new variants of vaccine being developed, a few months delay may actually make a lot of difference.”

On Friday, Imperial College’s Danny Altmann said “we should be terribly concerned” after 77 cases of a potentially vaccine-busting COVID-19 mutation first discovered in India were identified in Britain.

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Speaking to the BBC, Prof Altmann said: “They (variants of concern) are things that can most scupper our escape plan at the moment and give us a third wave.

“They are a worry.”

However, the assessment was dismissed as “a bit pessimistic” by Prof Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI).

Prof Finn said: “We’ve all expected evolution of this virus to occur from the start.

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“I also think that we know from other viruses and previous experience that the immunity that vaccines give won’t just disappear.

“It will be a gradual erosion. It won’t be back to square one. I would be really surprised if that happened.

“So, I think, possibly, that interpretation is a bit pessimistic.”

Prof Altmann said he found it “mystifying” and “slightly confounding” that those flying in from India were not required to stay in a hotel, with the virus soaring in the south Asian country.

India is not currently on the Government’s “red list” for travel, which sees people who have been in those countries in the previous 10 days refused entry to the UK.

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