Hancock: most Bolton Covid patients eligible for jab but haven’t had it

Hancock: most Bolton Covid patients eligible for jab but haven’t had it

Bolton,Boris Johnson,Hancock,India variant of Covid-19,Matt Hancock,harbouchanews

Health secretary’s comments come amid mounting concerns over spread of Indian B.1.617.2 variant

The majority of people in hospital with Covid in Bolton were eligible for the vaccine but have not had it, Matt Hancock has said, saying that health authorities would go “door-to-door” offering jabs.

His comments came as concern mounted over increased cases of the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India, particularly in the north-west and parts of London, which could affect the future easing of lockdown restrictions.

“I suppose the number one lesson from this episode is that if you are eligible, you should come forward and get the jab,” Hancock told Times Radio.

“If you want to know why that’s important, the majority of people in hospital with coronavirus in Bolton this morning are eligible for the jab but haven’t had it yet – [that] is the strongest point of why it’s so important for everybody to come forward and get this jab.”

The health secretary also defended the government’s delay of almost three weeks before putting India on its travel red list, a move only made after the cancellation of Boris Johnson’s planned visit to Delhi.

Hancock said the decision not to put India on the red list was “based on the evidence” when asked if it was linked to the prime minister’s desire to boost trade negotiations during his planned April visit, as cases soared in India.

The country was put on the red list, which requires hotel quarantine, for entering England 17 days after Pakistan and only after Johnson’s visit was cancelled.

“When we put Pakistan on the red list at the start of April that’s because the proportion of people testing positive coming in from Pakistan was three times higher than the proportion coming from India, and it was only after we put India on the red list that this variant went under investigation, and then earlier this month it became a variant of concern,” Hancock told Sky News.

He said it was “quite likely this will become the dominant variant” in the UK, because of its transmissibility. The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) was said to be “cautiously optimistic” that vaccines would work against the India variant of Covid-19.

Government scientific advisers suggested people should still avoid indoor socialising when rules are relaxed on Monday and Labour’s Yvette Cooper said the government should pause plans to allow international travel.

Hancock reiterated that places with high case numbers linked to the variant, such as Bolton and Blackburn, could see local lockdowns put in place but said that was not a step the government wanted to take.

“The approach we’re taking in Bolton and Blackburn is to absolutely pile in testing and vaccinations to try to get on top of this,” he said.

Hancock told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show that five people who had received a single jab of a Covid vaccine have been hospitalised with the variant in Bolton, and one person who had received both. He said he was not aware of any deaths among people who had been vaccinated.

Major new restrictions were due to be lifted on Monday, which will allow indoor socialising and overnight stays with other households for the first time, with advice against hugging also lifted.

Hancock said he would hug his own parents but stay outdoors. “Of course there are people who have been yearning to have some physical contact – you should do that carefully. If you’ve had both jabs more than two weeks ago, that’s much safer,” he said.

But Hancock stressed that the government was moving towards a “mantra” of personal responsibility. “We all have a personal responsibility, we all know now the sorts of things that are riskier but we’re able because the case numbers are so low to move away from some of the more restrictive interventions,” he said.

Prof Sir Mark Walport, a member of the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that people should be cautious.

“My personal judgment is that I will do things outside as far as possible,” he said. Asked if he would avoid indoor pubs, he said: “For the moment, yes.”

“My advice is that just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should,” he said. “As far as possible socialise outside, maintain social distancing, if you’re going to hug, hug cautiously.”

Walport said it was “a perilous moment … We have a variant that shows good evidence of being more transmissible and possibly significantly more transmissible … And the other thing that we do know is that this new variant from India is actually quite widely distributed across the country.”

He said there was a chance the India variant could cause substantial problems among “people that haven’t been vaccinated yet, people who are only partially protected because they’ve had one vaccination, and … in a small percentage of cases the vaccination for whatever reasons doesn’t work.”

He said vaccines would largely protect people against severe infection and death but said a small fraction of a very large number of infections could lead to significant numbers of deaths and hospitalisations.

Fellow Sage adviser Prof John Edmunds said the government should not rule out changes to the roadmap of easing restrictions if necessary. “I think we have to monitor this very carefully, I don’t think we should rule anything out. So if things look like they’re getting worse rapidly then I do think that action needs to be taken,” he said.

Asked whether the situation could have been avoided had the border to India been closed more quickly, he said: “I don’t think it would have been avoided, it could have delayed things a little bit.”

However, he said the UK was in “a much, much better place now than we were when the Kent variant first hit us back in November, December.”

He said hospitals were now mostly empty of Covid patients and two-thirds of the adult population have been vaccinated with one dose. “It is a new threat – but we’re not in the same position as we were back in December,” he said.

Yvette Cooper, who chairs the home affairs select committee, said the government should reverse its decision to allow foreign travel from Monday.

“The government needs to slow down its plans. I don’t understand why it’s lifting some of its international travel restrictions tomorrow. I think they should be being much more cautious about that,” she told the Andrew Marr Show.

Prof Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI said the committee could look again at the recommendation that people under 40 should be offered non-AstraZeneca jabs if it means it could speed up the rollout.

the guardian

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