Indian variant: Expert urges public to ‘be cautious’
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And the Government is now being urged to “hold its nerve” and continue easing restrictions. Fears over the Covid variants were dismissed as “scaremongering” and “pessimistic” because no strain to date has significantly evaded the vaccine or the immune system. New variants occur all the time and the vaccines being rolled out will prevent severe illness, it was argued.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pictured below, announced on Friday that the Indian variant could pose “serious disruption” to lockdown easing on June 21 after data suggested it could be more transmissible.
Experts have urged a cautious approach, warning current vaccines may be less effective at preventing mild cases or reducing the spread of the Indian variant.
However, Professor Anthony Brookes at the University of Leicester said all known Covid-19 strains differ only marginally at a genetic level and said that simply because a variant spread more quickly in one country, it did not mean it would behave the same way in another.
He said: “Government statements about the Indian variant could well be viewed as pessimistic and scaremongering. There will be a constant churn in which strains are most successful at different times and places – exactly as we have seen since the start of the pandemic.
“These incremental changes occur as the virus evolves and are really not large enough to make the immune system dramatically unable to recognise them.
“The Indian variant may or may not have a small transmission advantage over the predominant ‘Kent’ strain in the current UK setting, but the data are not especially troubling.
“It has been present in several other countries for a while now, and has not generally taken off as it did in India.
“Most UK cases today were imported, and not the result of any rapid community spread – even though it has arrived in communities where social distancing may be less observed.”
Public health expert Professor Robert Dingwall added: “It is important for the Government to hold its nerve in the face of a chorus of people who want to find an excuse to postpone the removal of restrictions. This is what living with endemic Covid looks like. New variants occur all the time.
“It does not change the way vaccines work which is to prevent severe infection.”
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