Boris announces sudden change to vaccine strategy – New variant could scupper roadmap

Johnson: Indian variant could pose ‘disruption’ to Step 4 in June

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The time between first and second doses of a coronavirus jab is to be shortened under plans to give ultimate protection to those most vulnerable as quickly as possible. Cases of the mutant strain in Britain have surged in recent weeks, with the number of cases tripling over the past seven days.

As a result, those aged over 50 are to be offered a second dose of a Covid jab eight weeks after their first, an acceleration of the 12 week gap being implemented under the current strategy.

Mr Johnson told a televised coronavirus briefing: “The race between our vaccination programme and the virus may be about to become a great deal tighter.”

Ministers are eager to avoid the new variant sparking a large rise in hospitalisations which would risk overwhelming the NHS.

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 at present and there was, therefore, no need to delay the road map reopening set for Monday.

From May 17 people in England will be allowed to socialise in private homes in groups for up to six or two households.

Indoor hospitality and entertainment venues like cinemas and museums will also be allowed to re-open.

Pleading with the public to continue to step forward and get a coronavirus vaccine when contacted, the Prime Minister added this evening: “It’s more important than ever therefore that people get the additional protection of a second dose.”

The level of protection from coronavirus increases when given a booster shot.

Mr Johnson warned that unless the UK could get on top of the variant the roadmap back to normality could be in jeopardy. 

He said: “I have to level with you, this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress and could make it more difficult to move to Step 4 in June.

“I must stress we will do whatever it takes to keep the public safe.”

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