Covid restrictions on the way – Vallance warns mutation to push more areas into lockdown

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The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has warned more areas in the UK could be plunged into Tier 4 restrictions. Speaking at Downing Street, Sir Patrick said: “The evidence on this virus is that it spreads easily, it’s more transmissible, we absolutely need to make sure we have the right level of restrictions in place. I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country and I think it’s likely, therefore, that measures will need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced.

“I think it is the case that this will spread more.”

He said there is no reason to think the new variant is more dangerous than the existing strain.

Sir Patrick continued: “Evidence that this can transmit more readily is becoming clear in terms of the data of the rapid spread of this virus across areas.

“The transmission is increased, but we can’t say exactly by how much, but it is clearly substantially increased, so it is more transmissible, which is why we see it growing so fast and spreading to so many areas.

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“There is no evidence that the disease course is any different, so if you catch it the disease looks the same as any other form of Covid infection.

“In terms of the immune response, there is nothing to suggest that this won’t have the same susceptibility to antibody attack from vaccine or pre-existing infection as any other form.

“At the moment, the vaccine looks as though it should be as effective and that’s obviously being looked at.”

It comes as health chiefs have urged anyone who travelled to regions from Tier 4 areas or Wales to self isolate, turn away Christmas Day visitors and “assume” they have the new Covid-19 variant.

On Monday afternoon, public health directors in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester asked people to self isolate for 10 days if they had travelled from London and areas of the South East, which entered Tier 4 at the weekend, or Wales, where tough new measures came into force on Sunday.

In Liverpool City Region, where a mass coronavirus testing pilot has been taking place, anyone who had travelled from London or the South East to the area was urged to get a coronavirus test.

Director of public health for the Lancashire authority of Blackburn with Darwen Dominic Harrison told BBC Lancashire anyone who had travelled from a Tier 4 area since last Wednesday should self-isolate for at least five days.

The advice came after scenes of people packing railway stations in London hours before Tier 4 controls came into force at midnight on Sunday, prompting fears the more infectious new variant could be spread across the country by the travellers.

Director of public health for Tameside, Greater Manchester, Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy said: “The new strain of Covid, which is increasing rapidly in Tier 4 areas, is extremely worrying.

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“It is incredibly infectious and if you come in to contact with someone with this strain you are far more likely to catch it than the original strain.

“We are so concerned about the potential grave impact of this that we have taken the difficult decision to ask anyone who has travelled here for Christmas from any Tier 4 area or Wales to act as if they have this new variant, even if they have no symptoms, and self-isolate for at least 10 days.

“Other people in the house do not need to self isolate but no visitors should be allowed in that house at all, even on Christmas Day.”

A statement issued on behalf of all the West Midlands health chiefs also urged people to “self-isolate for at least 10 days”.



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