Boris Johnson - Time between Covid jabs cut in response to Indian variant
- Credit: PA
People over 50 and the clinically vulnerable will be offered their second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine eight weeks after the first in a bid to dampen any impact from the Indian variant of coronavirus.
Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference that second doses - which give people maximum protection against Covid-19 - will be brought forward from the planned 12-week interval to eight weeks.
He said there was no evidence that a rise in cases of the Indian variant was translating into unmanageable pressures on the NHS in terms of hospital admissions.
As a result, he said he believed there was no need to delay the road map reopening set for Monday, which will see people able to socialise indoors.
"I do not believe that we need, on the present evidence, to delay our road map and we will proceed with our plan to move to step three in England from Monday," he said.
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"But I have to 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.
"I must stress that we will do whatever it takes to keep the public safe."
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Mr Johnson said that if the variant turned out to be much more transmissible than other variants, the country could face "hard choices".
The prime minister said that the UK's surveillance data is now so advanced, that it would see well ahead of time if the NHS was likely to come under unsustainable pressure.
"That gives us the confidence to continue moving forwards for now," he said.
Mr Johnson called on the people of Bolton and Blackburn to "play their part in stopping the spread of the new variant" and asked them to take the vaccine and the twice-weekly rapid tests.
"If you do test positive, you must self-isolate and we'll provide financial support to those on low incomes to help them do so," he said.
"Our best chance of suppressing this variant is to clamp down on it, wherever it is and we'll be throwing everything we can (at it)."