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New variant spread by arrivals from India while country stayed off red list

Taimoor Khan

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New variant spread by arrivals from India while country stayed off red list

Travellers may have used public transport to get home for quarantine, minister says

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
@andywoodcock
1 hour ago


People infected with the Indian variant of Covid-19 may have used public transport to travel home after arriving in the UK from the south Asian country during a crucial four days before it was placed on the government’s “red list”, a health minister has acknowledged.

Boris Johnson’s government is coming under fire for delay in implementing the highest levels of control on movements from India, amid claims it allowed the entry of the B1.617.2 variant of coronavirus which is now surging in areas like Bolton, Blackburn and Bedford.

Thousands of people flew to the UK between the government’s announcement on 19 April that India was about to be placed on the high-risk list for England and the moment the order came into effect at 4am on 23 April, requiring arrivals to go into managed quarantine at airport hotels.

And many others arrived after 2 April, when Bangladesh and Pakistan were placed on the red list, but India was not despite higher levels of infections, which surged dramatically later in the month.


On 2 April, recorded infections in India were running at about 90,000 a day - or one in every 15,000 of the population - compared to 4,700 in Pakistan (about one in 45,000) and 6,800 in Bangladesh (around one in 24,000).


The announcement that India was going on the red list was made as Boris Johnson cancelled a trip to the country planned for the end of April, which would have been his first major overseas visit since becoming prime minister and a crucial part of his post-Brexit “global Britain” drive to establish new trade links with other parts of the world.


At the time, the delay in adding India to the list was branded “inexplicable” by the SNP, while House of Commons Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper challenged health secretary Matt Hancock to explain why it had not been put on the list earlier.

“This week, Hong Kong identified 47 covid cases on a single Delhi flight,” Ms Cooper told the Commons on 19 April. “Before Friday, we still had 16 direct flights from India and many more indirect ones.”


Evidence from Public Health England shows that between 2 and 23 April, cases of the Indian variant were detected on people who had travelled to the UK from variant hotspots Delhi and Mumbai and domestic transmission began to take place.

The sharpest rise in cases came in the week from 19 April, as demand for India-UK flights went through the roof, with thousands of people rushing to get to Britain before the red list ruling came into effect.














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The chair of the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, Layla Moran, said: Boris Johnson must take responsibility for the failure to prevent the Indian variant taking root in the UK. Once again the government acted too late, and the country is sadly paying the price.”

The Liberal Democrat MP told The Independent: “They announced on the Monday that they were going to add India to the red list, but then it didn’t actually come into force until the Friday. Our group heard in our session that week that all the flights from India to the UK were full.

“If they’re going to announce an area with variants of concern is going on the red list, it needs to be immediate. And they shouldn’t be waiting a number of weeks after a variant of concern is found to put that country on the red list at all.

I think the blame for the surge in the Indian variant, for me, lies at the door of Boris Johnson.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that the surge in cases of the Indian variant “brings into sharp focus Boris Johnson’s reckless failure to protect our borders in this crisis”.

And Ms Cooper, said: “The Government was warned about the India variant – cases had been rapidly rising there since February - – but inexplicably delayed putting India on the red list until 23 April, after many thousands of people had returned from India bringing in many hundreds of new variant cases.

When they did finally add India to the red list – two weeks after they’d added Pakistan on 9 April – they gave travellers four days’ notice to rush back. Why didn’t they introduce additional testing for those travellers before they were able to get on public transport home?

Health minister Edward Argar told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was not possible to know how many people - if any - on flights from India were infected with the new variant, but said he believed the “overwhelming majority” would have complied with quarantine requirements to self-isolate for 14 days at home.





Asked if these people would have used public transport to travel from airports to their homes to start quarantine, he said: “Some may have done. That’s always a possibility.”


Mr Argar defended the decision not to place India on the red list at the start of April.

“The decisions made on whether any country moved to the red list were made on the basis of the evidence,” he said.

“There are a number of factors that were taken into consideration in the advice that was given to ministers on which country should be in which list. Some of that is infection rates, some of that is new variants, some of that is also the genomic sequencing capacity of a country to identify variants. India has a significant genomic sequencing capacity.

“On the basis of the advice at the time, the decision was taken to Pakistan and Bangladesh on the red list at a particular point, and India on that list subsequently.”

Mr Argar said that UK’s border restrictions to minimise the risk of variants entering the country are “among the strictest and the toughest in the world”, with passenger required to submit a locator form informing the authorities where they will reside during their quarantine period and tests at two and eight days for those arriving from amber or red list countries.


While people arriving from countries on the amber list - as India was for most of April - are allowed to quarantine at home unsupervised, Mr Argar said that “the evidence we’ve got is that the overwhelming majority comply with the quarantine requirements”.


The minister said there was no “hard and fast answer” on how many people arriving from India during April were infected with the variant.

But he insisted that the number of people arriving from a particular country was not the key issue.

“We know that this variant is highly transmissible,” he said. “One person could bring in a variant, and that could transmit quickly. It is impossible to completely hermetically seal the borders of a country.

“I do think we’ve got the right border controls in place to do everything we can to minimise - you can never totally eliminate it - but to minimise the risks.”

Mr Argar said that there had been a “minor increase” in people attending hospital in Bolton with Covid symptoms, mainly unvaccinated people in the 35-65 age group, but no significant rise in admissions.

There is no evidence yet of increased risk of severe illness, death or vaccine resistance from the new variant, he said.

But it may be up to two weeks before scientists establish whether it is only marginally more infectious than previous variants or as much as 50 per cent more transmissible.

Mr Argar defended the PM’s decision to go ahead with relaxing lockdown restrictions on Monday despite the uncertainty.


“From all of the evidence we have at the moment, it’s safe and it’s the right thing to do to go ahead on Monday with the easing of restrictions,” said the minister. “We will see in the coming weeks whether anything that emerges from the evidence changes.”







Covid: Indian variant could disrupt 21 June easing, PM says
  • By Emma Harrison
  • BBC News
14 May 2021

Video caption,
Boris Johnson: New variant "may cause disruption to our attempts to continue down the roadmap"
The Indian virus variant could pose "serious disruption" to lockdown easing in England on 21 June, the PM says.
Boris Johnson said if it was found to be "significantly" more transmissible there could be "some hard choices".
The wait between jabs will be cut from 12 weeks to eight for the over-50s and clinically vulnerable because of concern over the variant, he added.
Cases of the Indian coronavirus variant have nearly tripled in the past week, Public Health England figures show.
Surge testing is already taking place in 15 areas across England, including Bolton, Blackburn, London, Sefton and Nottingham.
According to Friday's government figures, a further 17 people have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive test and another 2,193 coronavirus cases have been recorded.
Speaking at a Downing Street briefing alongside the UK's chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, Mr Johnson said first Covid vaccine doses will also be prioritised "for anyone eligible who has not yet come forward". Currently, England's vaccination rollout is open to people over the age of 38.
The prime minister said he did not believe that the "present evidence" showed a need to delay the next stage in the easing of lockdown in England on Monday - when pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers indoors and six people or two households can meet in a private home.
But Mr Johnson warned: "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."
He added: "But I urge everyone to exercise the greatest caution because the choices we each make in the coming days will have a material effect on the road ahead."
He said he did not believe it was "impossible" to go ahead with step four of England's roadmap to ease coronavirus restrictions, but "we have to be utterly realistic" and there was "the risk of disruption and delay".
The government's aim with the fourth and final step of the roadmap is to remove all legal limits on social contact on 21 June - meaning there will be no limits on gatherings indoors or outdoors - nightclubs will be allowed to reopen and there will be no limits on weddings.
The government has said easing restrictions on 21 June depended on its four tests being met - including that vaccines continue to be effective and the risks are not fundamentally changed by new variants.
2px presentational grey line

Analysis box by James Gallagher, health and science correspondent

After months of positive news, including falling cases and a hugely successful vaccination campaign, the tone has shifted.
The full relaxation in June is in jeopardy and there is the looming spectre of greater pressure on the NHS.
It is important to remember we are in a dramatically different situation than at the start of the year, due to the huge success of the vaccination campaign.
But we are in a race between the virus and the vaccine. Easing restrictions on Monday and a more transmissible variant means the virus will move even faster.
The faster the virus spreads, the more people will get infected and the more people could end up in hospital. This is because vaccines are great, but not perfect and not every vulnerable person has had one.
Sage estimates a variant that is 40% more transmissible could put pressure on hospitals and that it is possible the variant that emerged in India spreads even more quickly than that.
The problem, though, is even greater for countries which haven't got successful vaccination programmes, where even more transmissible variants could be hugely damaging.
2px presentational grey line

Mr Johnson added that there was "no evidence to suggest that our vaccines will be less effective in protecting people against severe illness and hospitalisation".
The Army will be deployed on the streets of Blackburn and Bolton to give out tests to help the surge testing efforts.
There will be an acceleration of the vaccine rollout there, Mr Johnson said, including longer opening hours at vaccination centres.
Prof Whitty said delays to the vaccination programme for younger people were not expected with the prioritisation of second doses for older age groups.

Video caption,
Why do new variants of Covid-19 keep appearing? Laura Foster explains
He warned that if the variant first discovered in India proved to be more transmissible than other variants, the UK could see "a really significant surge" in Covid-19 cases, adding: "That's a really critical question to which we do not yet have the answer."
"We expect over time this variant will overtake and come to dominate in the UK in the way that the Kent variant did," he added.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said there is a "realistic possibility" that the variant could be as much as "50% more transmissible" than the Kent strain.
Cases of the Indian variant found in the UK to date have nearly tripled in the past week to 1,313, Public Health England said.
Most of the cases - 1,255 - are in England, while there are 35 in Scotland, 12 in Northern Ireland and 11 in Wales, according to PHE.
It said four people have now died with the Indian variant - officially designated a variant of concern - as of 12 May.
A public health board in Bolton

IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,
Surge testing is taking place in 15 areas across England, including in Bolton
Mobile testing units have been set up in Bolton, PHE said, and door-to-door PCR testing had been offered to 22,000 residents. A PCR test is the most accurate way to check for Covid.
More doses have been delivered to the town, which has also set up a vaccine bus to increase uptake among those who are eligible. A rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health officers has also been sent in.
Mr Johnson warned those living in Bolton and other affected areas that there was "now a greater risk from this new variant" and he urged people to be "extra cautious".
"There will be targeted new activity in Bolton and Blackburn to accelerate vaccine take-up among eligible cohorts - including longer opening hours at vaccination sites," he said.
Extra clinics will open in Blackburn and Darwen in Lancashire from next week to offer the vaccine to those who are eligible under national guidelines. The vaccination capacity of local pharmacies will also be increased.
But the area's public health director, Prof Dominic Harrison, said he was "furious" the government had refused a request to extend vaccinations in Blackburn.
On Thursday, the council initially said all over-18s would be offered a jab, before later stating only those with underlying conditions could book an appointment.
When asked by Fergus Walsh, the BBC's medical editor, whether over-18s who live in hotspot areas should have a first vaccine dose, Prof Whitty said there had been "debate" on this point.
He said the UK's vaccine advisers believed the "sensible thing to do" was to prioritise jabs to "those most at risk in all the places across the UK", explaining that age remained the single biggest factor when it came to those who fell seriously ill or died from Covid.
Meanwhile, the R number - or reproduction number - in England is estimated to have risen slightly from between 0.8 and 1.0 to between 0.8 and 1.1, according to the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
If the R number is above one then the number of cases keeps increasing.
Elsewhere, the Welsh government has said it is "confident" its vaccination programme "already has the flexibility it needs to respond swiftly and effectively and are not making any changes at this stage".




India variant could lead to serious third wave of Covid in UK
Analysis: If B.1.617.2 proves highly transmissible, hospitalisations could peak again, models show





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CHICKENS ARE COMING HOME TO ROOST.... LITERALLY..




UK establishment has given unprecedented access to UK decision making process to the sympathisers of Hindu extremist and terrorist regime of India, people like Preeti Patel. Now enjoy the show and pray.


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Tai Hai Chen

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Indian variant and British variant hybridize into super coronavirus which no vaccine works against and infects people who wear masks.

H.G. Wells
“By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain.”

― H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

 

Dalit

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Appeasment can only get you so far. Indian variant cases are now imploding all across Britain. Boris Johnson will pay the ultimate price now for licking Indian boots.
 

Taimoor Khan

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Appeasment can only get you so far. Indian variant cases are now imploding all across Britain. Boris Johnson will pay the ultimate price now for licking Indian boots.

I doubt its anything to do with appeasement. I sense a inbred hatred of Pakistan within current Britsh establishment, otherwise there is no way that so many Indians managed to get into UK government, special Preeti Patel who is a sympathiser of Hindu terrorist regime of India. They are deliberately propping India against Pakistan. Allow me to explain the current situation in Urdu:

Bugze Pakistan main apni ma** ch***li

Asad Umar tweeted this months ago:


Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) Tweeted:
Every country has a right to take decisions to safeguard the health of their citizens. However, the recent decision by UK govt to add some countries including Pakistan on the red list raises a legitimate question whether choice of countries is based on science or foreign policy https://t.co/BAzaW1Lc8l
 

Dalit

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I doubt its anything to do with appeasement. I sense a inbred hatred of Pakistan within current Britsh establishment, otherwise there is no way that so many Indians managed to get into UK government, special Preeti Patel who is a sympathiser of Hindu terrorist regime of India. They are deliberately propping India against Pakistan. Allow me to explain the current situation in Urdu:

Bugze Pakistan main apni ma** ch***li

Asad Umar tweeted this months ago:


Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) Tweeted:
Every country has a right to take decisions to safeguard the health of their citizens. However, the recent decision by UK govt to add some countries including Pakistan on the red list raises a legitimate question whether choice of countries is based on science or foreign policy https://t.co/BAzaW1Lc8l
It is both. Appeasment of India to get favourable access to Indian market and a natural hate towards Pakistan. There are certain elements in Britain that have a hate relationship with Pakistan. That is not a secret. This will be Britain's loss. Pakistan only cares about its diaspora in the UK.
 

Skywalker

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This effing priti patel was more interested in serving endians than the brits...now the brits will pay the price. One of my close friend ahd an important business meeting in pakistan and millions worth of sea food was at stake but could not travel due to PAkistan being in red list. So he wrote the letter to the local MP proteting and asking the reason for why Pakistan and not Endia,.....guss what ...what the MP replied....we are in the bubble with endians. Since now the bubble has been busted and hope that effing MP will get the new covid variant. No wonder labor lost their seat in recently held election misearbly and hopw that effing MP will losse hs seat as well.
 

PakSword

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Appeasment can only get you so far. Indian variant cases are now imploding all across Britain. Boris Johnson will pay the ultimate price now for licking Indian boots.
Not just Britain, Indians landed in Europe too, with no specific flight bans in place.

I think the whole Europe should prepare for another wave of infections... and we know how devastating this particular covid variant is.
It is both. Appeasment of India to get favourable access to Indian market and a natural hate towards Pakistan. There are certain elements in Britain that have a hate relationship with Pakistan. That is not a secret. This will be Britain's loss. Pakistan only cares about its diaspora in the UK.
And I question my own government why Britain wasn't put on our own restricted list. We have a government/ a bureaucracy/ an establishment that have many family and financial links with Britain.

It's completely opposite.. we have a one way romantic relationship with them.
 

Feng Leng

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The Anglo imperialists believed Modi when he declared that he single handedly eradicated covid-19 inside India so they opened up their borders to hordes of upper class Indians escaping early :rofl:
 

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