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Lockdowns and panic-buying in Taiwan as Covid cases rise | Taiwan From “World news | The Guardian”



Taiwan reported 206 new local cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, breaking the previous day’s record high of 180.The outbreak, which began about three weeks ago among employees of the national airline and a connected quarantine hotel, has now produced about 85% of Taiwan’s total number of locally transmitted cases since the pandemic began.The sudden rise in cases in a country widely considered to have had one of the world’s leading pandemic responses has prompted partial lockdown measures in two cities including the capital, Taipei, and sent worried residents indoors, clearing usually busy shopping districts and temples.At a press briefing on Sunday, the central epidemic command centre (CECC) announced 207 new cases, one of which was an imported case. The patients were predominately older people but ranged in age from five to 80. There were 89 new cases in Taipei City, of which 58 were in the district of Wanhua, where a cluster of at least 100 cases so far has centred on hosted bars and teahouses connected to the sex work industry. Another 97 cases were in neighbouring New Taipei City. Dozens of cases have reportedly not yet been traced to a source.A day after ordering Taipei and New Taipei to move to level 3 of a four-tier alert system, the health minister, Chen Shih-chung, announced further measures including remote learning for some school years, and guidelines for hospitals to prioritise symptomatic Covid cases, saying dedicated beds were beginning to fill. He urged people to increase hygiene measures and avoid unnecessary travel and interactions outside home. “Personal responsibility is very important,” he said.People walk past a sign reading ‘Wear protective face mask, wash your hands and keep social distancing’ at a night market in Taipei. Photograph: Ann Wang/ReutersThe level 3 alert covers about 6.5 million of Taiwan’s 24 million people and limits gatherings and mandates public mask-wearing and the closure of some businesses and public venues. It allows eateries to stay open if they can ensure social distancing, but initial confusion about the rules left many businesses unsure if they had to close. People panic-shopped in droves on Saturday afternoon, crowding supermarkets.Despite Taiwan’s compliance and caution in relation to the pandemic, Chen suggested he had not implemented more stringent restrictions because residents might resist.Health experts said the rise in case numbers was probably partly a result of mass testing drives over the weekend. But the sharp jump from 29 new cases on Friday to triple figures over the weekend has prompted alarm among a population that has seen the virus wreak havoc overseas while their own lives have remained largely normal.Empty shelves in a store in Taipei. Photograph: Ann Wang/ReutersTaipei’s metro system reported a 60% drop in passengers on Saturday, with 1 million fewer rides than the previous week. The capital was devoid of crowds and traffic, and riverside eateries and pedestrian shopping districts were mostly empty.On Sunday in Wanhua, the centre of Taipei’s major cluster, shops were closed and trucks carrying decontamination teams drove the streets. A lone woman prayed at the usually crowded Longshan temple, while an adjacent park hosted just a fraction of the elderly residents who usually gather to chat, play board games or shelter from the sun under the bougainvillaea.The outbreak has also prompted a surge in vaccinations. On Saturday 32,000 people were give a dose, the highest daily number so far. With no community presence of the virus in Taiwan for so long, few people eligible for the several hundred thousand vaccines obtained had sought one out. In light of the outbreak, self-pay vaccines for the general public – launched to make use of the doses before they expired – were suspended. President Tsai Ing-wen announced that a domestically developed vaccine would be available by July, and orders of overseas vaccines are expected in coming months.The outbreak began in late April among airline staff from the domestic carrier China Airlines and the Novotel hotel at Taoyuan airport where they stayed. Infections then spread to families and households. Observers have noted the short quarantine period for airline staff, which was relaxed from five days to three in mid-April, amid allegations that infected individuals went out socialising. Sunday’s cases bring Taiwan’s total tally of Covid-19 cases to 1,682, of which 1,132 were imported.







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Hancock defends India travel ban delay as Covid variant cases mount | Coronavirus From “World news | The Guardian”



Matt Hancock has defended the government’s delay of almost three weeks before putting India on its travel red list, a move only made after the cancellation of Boris Johnson’s planned visit to Delhi.His defence came as concern mounted over increased cases of the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India, particularly in the north-west and parts of London, which could affect the future easing of lockdown restrictions.Hancock said the decision not to red list India was “based on the evidence” when asked if it was linked to the prime minister’s desire to boost trade negotiations during his planned April visit, as cases soared in India.The country was put on the red list, which requires hotel quarantine, for entering England 17 days after Pakistan and only after Johnson’s visit was cancelled.“When we put Pakistan on the red list at the start of April that’s because the proportion of people testing positive coming in from Pakistan was three times higher than the proportion coming from India, and it was only after we put India on the red list that this variant went under investigation, and then earlier this month it became a variant of concern,” Hancock told Sky News.He said it was “quite likely this will become the dominant variant” in the UK, because of its transmissibility. The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) was said to be “cautiously optimistic” that vaccines would work against the India variant of Covid-19.Government scientific advisers suggested that people should still avoid indoor socialising when rules are relaxed on Monday and Labour’s Yvette Cooper said the government should pause plans to allow international travel.Hancock reiterated that places with high case numbers linked to the variant, such as Bolton and Blackburn, could see local lockdowns put in place but said that was not a step the government wanted to take.“The approach we’re taking in Bolton and Blackburn is to absolutely pile in testing and vaccinations to try to get on top of this,” he said.Hancock told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show that five people who had received a single jab of a Covid vaccine have been hospitalised with the variant in Bolton, and one person who had received both. He said he was not aware of any deaths among people who had been vaccinated.Major new restrictions were due to be lifted on Monday, which will allow indoor socialising and overnight stays with other households for the first time, with advice against hugging also lifted.Hancock said he would hug his own parents but stay outdoors. “Of course there are people who have been yearning to have some physical contact – you should do that carefully. If you’ve had both jabs more than two weeks ago, that’s much safer,” he said.But Hancock stressed that the government was moving towards a “mantra” of personal responsibility. “We all have a personal responsibility, we all know now the sorts of things that are riskier but we’re able because the case numbers are so low to move away from some of the more restrictive interventions,” he said.Sir Mark Walport, a member of the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday said that people should be cautious.“My personal judgment is that I will do things outside as far as possible,” he said. Asked if he would avoid indoor pubs, he said: “For the moment, yes.”“My advice is that just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should,” he said. “As far as possible socialise outside, maintain social distancing, if you’re going to hug, hug cautiously.”Walport said it was “a perilous moment … We have a variant that shows good evidence of being more transmissible and possibly significantly more transmissible … And the other thing that we do know is that this new variant from India is actually quite widely distributed across the country.”He said there was a chance that the Indian variant of the virus could cause substantial problems among “people that haven’t been vaccinated yet, people who are only partially protected because they’ve had one vaccination, and … in a small percentage of cases the vaccination for whatever reasons doesn’t work.”He said vaccines would largely protect people against severe infection and death but said a small fraction of a very large number of infections could lead to significant numbers of deaths and hospitalisations.Fellow Sage adviser Prof John Edmunds said the government should not rule out changes to the roadmap of easing restrictions if necessary. “I think we have to monitor this very carefully, I don’t think we should rule anything out. So if things look like they’re getting worse rapidly then I do think that action needs to be taken,” he said.Asked whether the situation could have been avoided had the border to India been closed more quickly, he said: “I don’t think it would have been avoided, it could have delayed things a little bit.”However, he said the UK was in “a much, much better place now than we were when the Kent variant first hit us back in November, December.”He said hospitals were now mostly empty of Covid patients and two-thirds of the adult population have been vaccinated. “It is a new threat – but we’re not in the same position as we were back in December,” he said.Yvette Cooper, who chairs the home affairs select committee, said the government should reverse its decision to allow foreign travel from Monday.“The government needs to slow down its plans. I don’t understand why it’s lifting some of its international travel restrictions tomorrow. I think they should be being much more cautious about that,” she told the Andrew Marr show.Prof Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI said the committee could look again at the recommendation that people under 40 should be offered non-AstraZeneca jabs if it means that it could speed up the rollout.







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Singapore moves back towards lockdown as Covid-19 cases rise, jeopardizing long-awaited travel bubble with Hong Kong — RT World News From “RT World News”



Singapore’s government has announced new curbs on socializing that sees the city-state move back towards lockdown amid rising Covid-19 cases, both traced and untraceable, and the formation of several coronavirus clusters.

Speaking on Friday, Lawrence Wong, the minister for education who also co-chairs Singapore’s coronavirus taskforce, described the move as a setback in the fight against the virus. “A pattern of local unlinked community cases has emerged and is persisting,” the Health Ministry said in a statement on Friday. “We need to act decisively to contain these risks as any one leak could result in an uncontrolled resurgence of cases.” The new measures, which come into effect on Sunday and run until mid-June, limit social gatherings to two people (down from five) and prohibit restaurant dining. Working from home is also being encouraged unless it is impossible for the worker to do so. 

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Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said that the rising number of infections, and notably untraceable infections, means Singapore is unlikely to meet the requirements set to open a travel bubble with Hong Kong. It was hoped that the long-delayed bubble would be opened in late May.On Thursday, the Health Ministry said that the registered number of Covid-19 infections in the community was 71 over the past week, up from 48 the week before. Most concerningly, the number of untraceable cases had jumped from 7 to 15 on the previous week. The country has frequently been touted as a ‘Covid haven’, having nearly eliminated the virus within its borders. Authorities have made good progress in inoculations too, compared to regional counterparts, having given at least one shot to 1.8 million of the country’s 5.7 million people. Singapore was one of 12 countries and territories to appear on the UK’s travel green list, published by the government last week.If you like this story, share it with a friend!







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Taiwan tightens curbs after surge in domestic Covid-19 cases From “World News Headlines, Latest International News, World Breaking News – Times of India”



TAIPEI: Taiwan raised its coronavirus alert level on Saturday in the capital, Taipei, and the city around it, bringing curbs for a period of two weeks that will shut many venues and restrict gatherings in the wake of 180 new domestic infections. The new rules will not mean offices, schools or restaurants have to close, but will cause the shutdown of cinemas and other entertainment spots, while limiting family get-togethers to five people indoors and 10 outdoors. For the first time, masks will have to be worn outdoors. Taipei’s government has already ordered bars, nightclubs and similar venues to shut. Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said a “level of risk” in certain hot spots, such as Taipei’s gritty Wanhua district, had spurred the decision to raise the alert level. “Only by doing this can infections be dealt with and controlled,” he told reporters. President Tsai Ing-wen’s spokesman said she would reduce the number of “unnecessary meetings” or public events. The presidential office is close to Wanhua. The rising community infections unnerved the stock market this week, but at the same news conference, Premier Su Tseng-chang reiterated that the island’s economic fundamentals remain good. Deputy Finance Minister Frank Juan told Reuters authorities would watch market reaction on Monday, adding that he did not rule out calling a meeting of the National Stabilisation Fund, which the government can use to smooth large fluctuations. Investors should act rationally, he said, pointing out that only a few sectors would be affected by the curbs, such as tourism, rather than the island’s crucial foreign trade. The new restrictions do not apply to the chip-manufacturing hub of Hsinchu, and are unlikely to affect exports of semiconductors, a global shortage of which has shut some car factories. Taiwan has millions of vaccine doses on order from Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca Plc, though only a small number have arrived from the latter. More vaccines will start arriving next month, Tsai has said. Since the pandemic began, Taiwan has reported fewer than 1,500 cases among a population of about 24 million, most of them imported from abroad, but a recent rise in community transmissions has spooked residents. The island has never gone into a full lockdown and its people are used to life carrying on near normal, despite the pandemic ranging in many other parts of the world. Late on Friday, several universities, including the elite National Taiwan University, said they would immediately switch to remote learning, telling students to stay away from campuses. Museums in Taipei, and the zoo, said they would shut too.







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Russia reports 8,790 new Covid-19 cases, 364 deaths From “World News Headlines, Latest International News, World Breaking News – Times of India”



MOSCOW: Russia reported 8,790 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the day after the number of daily infections climbed to 9,462, the highest number of new cases since the end of March. More than a third of new cases, 3,073, were registered in Moscow, which on Friday reported the highest number of new coronavius patients since January. The Russian coronavirus crisis centre said that 364 new deaths had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, which took the national death toll to 115,480. The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and has said Russia recorded around 250,000 deaths related to COVID-19 from April 2020 to March 2021.







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Taiwan records 180 new cases in island’s worst Covid outbreak of pandemic | Taiwan From “World news | The Guardian”



Taiwan has reported 180 new cases of Covid-19 as it rushes to contain the worst outbreak the island has seen since the pandemic began. Authorities have raised the alert level in Taipei and the neighbouring county of New Taipei, limiting family gatherings, and ordering numerous industries to close.Taiwan has been one of the world’s pandemic success stories, and its case numbers remain low relative to outbreaks around the world. But Saturday’s cases, which bring its total number so far to about 1,470 among a population of 24 million, mark the highest rates of community transmission since the pandemic began. Until now almost all of Taiwan’s cases were detected in new arrivals held in hotel quarantine.Of the 180 cases, 132 were reportedly without a known source.At a press conference on Saturday, Premier Su Tseng-chang and cabinet ministers announced the lifting of the alert level for Taipei and New Taipei from two to three, on a four-level scale, where four establishes a lockdown. Beginning 4pm Saturday they will remain in place until 28 May, authorities said.According to guidelines published in local media, level 3 generally includes mandatory mask wearing in public, limits on outdoor gatherings to 10 and indoor gatherings to five, and the closure of all businesses except essential services, law enforcement, government services, and health services.However in Saturday’s announcement, food and beverage outlets were only ordered to close if they could not fully implement customer ID registration and social distancing measures. Customers were urged to choose takeout over dining in. Weddings and funerals have not been cancelled but will require registration of attendees, and the limits on gatherings did not apply to schools or work.Within hours of the announcement some supermarkets were mobbed by shoppers, despite no apparent suggestion that supermarkets would close.Scenes at a grocery store in Taipei, only 30 minutes after new Level 3 pandemic restrictions were announced. Shelves are empty. Checkout lines are snaking around the building. The wait is 1+ hour and getting longer 🛒 pic.twitter.com/YuzQtp4Zv3— Leslie V. Nguyen-Okwu 阮蕾 (@lnguyenokwu) May 15, 2021
Under the general guidelines, residents in neighbourhoods where community transmission has occurred – for example in Taipei’s Wanhua district which is at the centre of a major cluster – must stay within defined perimeters and comply with testing. Schools and public gatherings in the neighbourhood would also be suspended.Residents of Wanhua, where the outbreak was originally centred around several hostess bars and tea houses linked to the sex work industry, have been reporting in droves to rapid testing clinics since Friday. Authorities have promised law enforcement has no intention of targeting sex workers or undocumented migrants.Among Saturday’s reported cases, just 43 were in Wanhua.The rest of Taiwan remains on alert level 2 but entertainment venues have been ordered to close and religious gatherings banned. The Taiwan-Palau travel bubble has also been suspended until 8 June, and Hong Kong has increased its quarantine requirements for anyone arriving from Taiwan.The health minister, Chen Shih-chung, said alert level 4 would not be triggered unless there were 100 or more daily cases for seven consecutive days.The outbreak has caught Taiwan by surprise, after almost 18 months with no major outbreaks. The island state established border controls early on and runs a strict hotel and home quarantine system. However like several nations in the Pacific which had similar success, the country has a low vaccination rate, at least partly due to struggles convincing its population to get vaccinated. While the rollout has prioritised vulnerable and high risk groups, in recent weeks health services have offered self-paid vaccines to the general public in order to use up doses before they expire. On Friday president Tsai Ing-wen announced Taiwan’s first locally developed vaccine would be available by July.Taipei’s mayor and senior hospital authorities were expected to address the press on Saturday afternoon.







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Parts of Taiwan lock down after record 29 new Covid cases | Taiwan From “World news | The Guardian”



Taipei’s mayor has announced the indefinite closure of bars, cafes, restaurants and entertainment venues from midnight on Friday after Taiwan reported 29 new community transmission cases of Covid-19, its highest single-day figure since the pandemic began, including seven with no known source.Business closures were announced by local governments in the capital and in other northern counties in response to the growing outbreak in those areas, going beyond national restrictions set by the central government.“The outbreak continues to widen so we have to upgrade the pandemic prevention measures,” said the Taipei mayor, Ko Wen-je. “But we urge residents not to panic. We had kept the pandemic under control effectively in the past year but we may have become too relaxed. We need to be vigilant again and we can still bring it under control.”Other local authorities announced measures including the closure of an outpatient clinic at a Songshan hospital and the closure of various hospitality and entertainment venues from midnight in Taoyuan, Keelung and Hsinchu, local media reported.The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control said 16 new cases were linked to teahouses and hostess bars in the Wanhua neighbourhood in Taipei. One was linked to a cluster in Yilan and five to a cluster in New Taipei.Most of the people affected are in their 50s and 60s, the youngest is 10 and the oldest in their 70s. Several are teahouse employees. Authorities said they were focusing on the health response and did not intend to arrest sex workers, local media reported.Rapid testing stations will be set up in the Wanhua area, the first time Taiwan has used such a measure. Ko said immigrants who were in the country illegally would not be targeted at testing stations, and he encouraged everyone in the area to present for screening.“Medical treatment is a human right. I guarantee that administrative units will not arrest or repatriate during the inspection,” he said.Taiwan has kept itself free of major Covid outbreaks so far in the pandemic, but the rise in case numbers has prompted widespread fear. Taiwan is on level 2 of a four-level alert system.There was high concern over two clusters in the counties of Taoyuan and Yilan, which did not have a known link for several days. The outbreak has since expanded to include New Taipei, Taipei and Changhua, in central Taiwan.The alert level will rise to 3 if there are three community clusters reported within a week or 10 locally transmitted cases from an unknown source in one day. Many people and businesses appear to have increased their precautions beyond what is mandated.On Wednesday Taiwan’s premier, Su Tseng-chang, said people had been getting “more relaxed or careless as time goes by”, having been largely untouched by the pandemic. Taiwan locked down early, restricting non-resident entries, and has run a strict hotel and home quarantine system. Voluntary mask use has remained high.Of Taiwan’s 1,290 total Covid cases, just 164 have been local. The rest were detected in recent arrivals who were in hotel quarantine. A dozen people have died.







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Singapore tightens safety measures amid surge in Covid-19 cases From “World News Headlines, Latest International News, World Breaking News – Times of India”



SINGAPORE: Singapore on Friday tightened restrictions on group gatherings and public activities following a spike in Covid-19 community cases, according to a media report. The current size of group gatherings allowed will be reduced from five people to two people from Sunday, Education Minister Lawrence Wong said. The move came after reports emerged of more and more Covid-19 cases linked to Changi Airport, schools and hospitals, the Channel News Asia reported. There are currently 46 cases in the Changi Airport cluster, making it the largest of Singapore’s 11 active clusters. This and other new measures labelled as “Phase 2 (Heightened Alert)” will remain in place until June 13. Speaking at a multi-ministry task force press conference, Wong said: “This will apply across the board, so if you want to go out for anything, grocery shopping, exercise, maximum of two persons henceforth. “We strongly encourage everyone to stay home as much as possible, go out only for essential reasons,” Wong said. Responding to questions about whether Singapore could enter another “circuit breaker” period after the midpoint review, Wong said: “If indeed the situation does not improve, we certainly will not rule out even more stringent measures thereafter.” “Individuals should continue to limit their overall number of social gatherings to not more than two per day, whether to another household, or meeting with friends and family members in a public place,” said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a separate press release. Grandchildren being cared for by their grandparents on a daily basis would not count towards the cap of two distinct visitors or the number of social gatherings per day, said MOH in the press release. “However, grandparents are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated against Covid-19, to protect both themselves and their grandchildren from Covid-19 infection. To reduce the risk of transmission, grandparents should also minimise intermingling between grandchildren from different households,” it said. Other activities that will not be allowed during this period include strenuous indoor exercise classes, or strenuous individual and group indoor sports and exercise activities, said MOH in the press release. Personalised services that need masks to be removed like facials and saunas, singing and playing instruments that need “require intentional expulsion of air” like wind or brass instruments, will also not be allowed. However, medical and dental services can continue, said the press release. Event sizes and event size caps will be further scaled down, said Wong. Currently, events can have 100 attendees without pre-event testing and 250 with pre-event testing. This will be scaled down to 50 and 100 attendees respectively, he added. This will apply to congregational and other worship services and MICE activities, said Wong. Singapore’s health ministry on Thursday reported 24 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases, the highest daily number since mid-September. The country has so far reported more than 61,000 coronavirus cases and 31 deaths







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Cases rise but remain below May 7 peak From “International: Top News And Analysis”



Health workers wearing personal protective equipment attend to Covid-19 patients inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid care center in New Delhi on May 7, 2021.Prakash Singh | AFP | Getty ImagesIndia’s total Covid-19 cases crossed 24 million as the country fights a devastating second wave of infections that has overwhelmed its health-care system.Government data released Friday showed there were 343,144 new reported cases over a 24-hour period, where at least 4,000 people died. It was the third consecutive day where the official death toll was 4,000 or higher.Still, daily cases have stayed below the record 414,188 figure reported on May 7 but the pressure has not yet eased off hospitals. Reports also suggest that the virus is making rounds in rural India, where experts have said the health-care system is not designed to cope with a surge in cases.A professor from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur said on Friday that daily cases in India may have peaked.”According to our model, the number of new cases coming every day has already crossed the peak and we are on the way down,” Manindra Agrawal, a professor in the computer science and engineering department, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.” He added that India’s number of active cases is also “very close to the peak” and that it could happen in the next few days, after which things are likely to improve.Agrawal co-authored a mathematic model for pandemics called SUTRA (Susceptible, Undetected, Tested (positive), and Removed Approach) with two scientists to predict the spread of the coronavirus.Previously, the model predicted India’s second wave would peak by the third week of April and that daily cases would likely stay around 100,000. April was India’s worst month so far with nearly 7 million cases officially reported, while more than 48,000 people died. Experts have said the actual tally is likely much higher.The scientists behind SUTRA then said the model’s shortcomings were due to the changing nature of the Covid-19 virus.For his part, Agrawal told CNBC that the SUTRA model had predicted the second wave would have a similar intensity as the first wave and would peak towards the end of April.”This is the feedback we gave to the government,” he said, adding, “While we got the location or the timing more or less right, of the peak, but we didn’t get the intensity right.””Nobody could really gauge the intensity of the wave and that took us all by surprise,” Agrawal added.Indian officials are already keeping an eye on a potential third wave as the government aims to step up its massive inoculation program by increasing the production of vaccines.The principal scientific advisor to the Indian government, K. VijayRaghavan, this month said a third wave is “inevitable, given the higher levels of circulating virus.”







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UK PM Johnson says he’s ‘anxious’ about Indian Covid-19 strain, won’t rule out local lockdowns as cases of variant jump — RT World News From “RT World News”



UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wouldn’t rule out imposing local measures to tackle the spread of the Indian Covid-19 variant, after the number of cases detected more than doubled in the past week.

“It is a variant of concern. We are anxious about it. It has been spreading,” Johnson told reporters during a visit to the town of Ferryhill in County Durham on Thursday.The PM said there were a “range of things” the government could do to contain the spread of infection, including surge testing and tracing in areas such as Bolton and Blackburn, where the variant is particularly prevalent.“If we have to do other things, then, of course, the public would want us to rule nothing out,” Johnson added.

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EU drugs regulator says ‘promising evidence’ mRNA vaccines could neutralize Indian Covid-19 variant

The PM’s comments come as the number of cases of the Indian variant detected in England more than doubled from 520 last week to 1,313 this week, according to new data from Public Health England (PHE).The B.1.617.2 variant, which was first detected in India, was labelled a “variant of concern” by PHE last week, due to early evidence it may be more transmissible.It was previously classified as a less severe “variant under investigation.”Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!







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