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New steps to boost response to coronavirus B1.617.2 variant: UK

COVID-19. Photo: Miguel Á. Padriñán/ Pixabay

London, May 14 (MNN) The UK government has said that it is closely monitoring a coronavirus variant first identified in India (B1.617.2) and taking action along with NHS Test and Trace and local authorities.

“The B1.617.2 variant of concern is beginning to spread increasingly rapidly in certain areas across the country and decisive action is being taken to further control its spread including additional surge testing, increased genomic sequencing and enhanced contact tracing,” the Department of Health and Social Care said.

A new Surge Rapid Response Team is being deployed in Bolton, additional surge testing will shortly launch in areas such as Formby, and enhanced contact tracing is in place across England.

Ministers are also considering a range of options which could include bringing forward second doses for eligible groups, the department added.

“While there is no firm evidence yet to show this variant has any greater impact on severity of disease or evades the vaccine, the speed of growth is concerning and the government is considering additional action if deemed necessary, including how to best utilise the vaccine rollout to best protect the most vulnerable in the context of the current epidemiology.”

The latest data on the B1.617.2 variant, published by Public Health Engladh this evening, shows the number of cases across the UK has risen from 520 last week, to 1,313 cases this week. Most cases are in the north-west of England, with some in London.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are monitoring the situation very carefully and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary. It is imperative we all continue to be vigilant…”

Additional measures will be implemented in areas where clusters of cases have been detected to stop further spread. These include:

• Enhanced testing and contact tracing, including enhanced community and surge testing in areas defined by the local authorities and regional teams

• Increased genome sequencing of positive cases

• Increased community engagement, including ensuring that messages are accessible in languages that are used by communities

• Working closely with communities and community leaders to ensure that individuals are supported to test and self-isolate

• Ensuring access to vaccination in the age and risk groups currently prioritised for vaccination and encouraging uptake

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