Lockdown easing may be reversed over ‘concerning’ South African Covid strain

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Lockdown easing could be reversed amid growing fears of an explosion in the "very concerning" South African Covid variant.

Londoners have been urged to get tested immediately after a large cluster of the strain was reported in the south of the city.

The outbreak could delay the next "waymarks" on England's plan to ease restrictions on May 17 and June 21, the Sun reports.

Boris Johnson bizarrely played down the effects of the vaccine by saying it was lockdown that has caused the reduction of infections and deaths.

The Prime Minister was on Tuesday trying to urge caution as restrictions in England were relaxed.

Prof James Naismith has now told BBC Radio 4 we "may need to pause reopening".

Prof Peter Openshaw, a member of a Sage group told BBC2's Newsnight: "A lot of we scientists are very concerned about what's happening at the moment.

"I think we're all just hoping that the staged reduction in lockdown is going to be ok. It is being done reasonably cautiously but I think this is not good news.

"If we get rapid spread of the South African or other more resistant variants, it may well be that we are going to have to put the reductions of lockdown into reverse."

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The cluster of 44 confirmed cases in south London appears to have been triggered by an individual who travelled from Africa in February, the BBC reported.

The Government said all cases and their contacts are in self isolation.

Overall there have been 533 confirmed cases of the South African variant in the UK and another 11 probable cases.

These are those found through laboratory investigating of positive swab results.

But because this is only done for 10 per cent of swabs, the true number of South African variant cases is likely to be higher.

Prof James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and professor at the University of Oxford, said we will know in “two to three weeks” how much the London outbreak has spread.

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He told BBC Radio 4 we "may need to pause reopening" if it has taken off.

Lockdown was further eased in England on Monday, with non-essential retail and pub beer gardens permitted to open.

Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told Good Morning Britain: "If we start going wild and completely ignore all the basic rules then we will see more transmission and things like the South African variant will become more prevalent."

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The Prime Minister said: "I cannot see any reason for us to change the roadmap or deviate from the targets we've set ourselves.

"But it is very very important that if we are to get there in the way we want, that people continue to be cautious, and exercise restraint.

"Of course the vaccination programme has helped, but the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown.

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"So, as we unlock, the result will inevitably be that we will see more infection, sadly we will see more hospitalisation and deaths."

  • BBC
  • London
  • Lockdown
  • Coronavirus

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