Indian variant could hamper roadmap, Norfolk health expert says

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia. Picture: UEA

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia. Picture: UEA - Credit: UEA

A leading viral disease expert at the University of East Anglia has raised doubts over coronavirus restrictions fully easing this June

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia's Norwich Medical School said the Indian variant of the virus has caused big concerns over whether June 21 is still achievable as the final step of the government's roadmap.

B16172 was last week designated as a "variant of concern" by experts from Public Health England after small clusters of cases were detected across the country.

And after a very small number of cases were detected in Norfolk, Prof Hunter expects the situation to become worse over the coming weeks.

He said: "The Indian variant has caused big concern over whether step four of the roadmap will be achievable.

"Modellers within SAGE [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] do not think we will be able to make the final step out of lockdown in June at the moment and I would not argue against that."

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school.

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. - Credit: Archant

Prof Hunter said he has been expressing concern about the variant for a month now, having written an article for the Spectator two-weeks-ago on the subject. 

But he said the variant's impact on the UK has been "a little bit quicker than anticipated" with prime minister Boris Johnson admitting on Thursday the government is "anxious" about it.

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Prof Hunter continued: "The Indian variant is not looking good at the moment with cases doubling every week to 10 days across the UK despite the fact we have still got a high level of restrictions in place.

"It's almost certainly more infectious than the Kent variant and the case numbers have started rising in the UK. It is on an upward trend even before additional relaxations."

Nurse Maria Alexiou preparing a Covid-19 vaccination at the new mass vaccination centre at Connaught

There have been fresh calls for police to receive coronavirus vaccinations. Here, nurse Maria Alexiou preparing a Covid jab at the vaccination centre at Connaught Hall in Attleborough. - Credit: Danielle Booden

The vaccination programme continues to be a source of hope with evidence that the variant will not be as severe for those who have received jabs.

"Most people over 40 have been offered the vaccine and one dose so I am really hopeful it does not lead to rapidly increasing the pressure on the health service again but it is a bit early to breathe a sigh of relief," Prof Hunter added.

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