Right for lockdown easing to go ahead despite Indian variant concerns: The Yorkshire Post says

The long-awaited arrival of today’s major easing of key lockdown restrictions would ideally have been a cause of simple celebration, but the circumstances surrounding the concerns surrounding the Indian variant also make it a day of some trepidation.

Guests at Studley Castle Hotel in Warwickshire eat at the Evesham restaurant as Warner Leisure hotel group re-opens all 14 of its properties in England and Wales today following the latest easing of the coronavirus lockdown measures. Picture: Fabio De Paola/PA Wire

The changes in rules from today in England will allow people to socialise indoors in homes, pubs and restaurants, and will permit physical contact between households for the first time in more than a year.

While some experts have called for the unlocking programme to be suspended as a result of the Indian variant – believed to be 50 per cent more transmissible than the one that emerged in Kent – Health Secretary Matt Hancock provided some reassuring news yesterday that there is now a “high degree of confidence” that vaccines work against it.

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Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Hancock took the unusual step of revealing some details about the 18 people currently in hospital with Covid in Bolton, the national hotspot for the variant at the moment.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock appearing on The Andrew Marr Show.

He said that the majority had been eligible for a vaccine but had not yet had one. Of the remaining patients, five had received a single jab while the one who had received both was described as being already “frail”. Importantly, the Health Secretary said the Government is not aware of anyone who has died with the Indian variant having had both vaccinations.

While the Indian variant may well prove to be more transmissible than the Kent variant which spread with such devastating rapidity across the country before Christmas, the nation is in a much better place now with the vaccination programme and months of lockdown meaning there are currently fewer than 1,000 Covid patients in hospital.

It means that for now, going ahead cautiously with the next reopening step while further ramping up the vaccination programme is the right decision.

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