British officials remain optimistic but as Health Minister Matt Hancock on Thursday May 27 is calling “To vigilance” : the number of cases of the variant B.1.617.2 (for the first time detected in India) has doubled again in the United Kingdom in one week, to now reach nearly 7,000 cases listed. These figures remain very modest, yet the trend is worrying: “Between half and three quarters of new positive cases are due to the B.1.617.2 variant”, Mr Hancock added, at a conference in Downing Street.
“This variant is becoming dominant [dans le pays] », added Jenny Harries, head of the UK health agency, “It continues to progress but we do not know if it is because it is spreading or if it is because we are testing more in the areas where it is circulating”, adds the specialist cautiously. It is now present throughout the country, including London, but the epicenter of the infections is in the north-west of England – the Greater Manchester – and to a lesser extent in the Midlands. Densely populated areas (Bolton, Blackburn or Leicester), where a significant proportion of the population lives in multigenerational households, occupy service jobs making teleworking impossible. And many are the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent: the first people infected with the variant B.1.617.2 returned directly from India.
In some places, vaccine reluctance persists
In these areas, the British government sent the army, for ten days, to help the accelerated vaccination of populations – “We are in a race for the vaccine against the variant”, Mr Hancock insisted. The British vaccination campaign continues to progress at a very good pace with now 24 million people fully vaccinated (about a third of the population). In addition, according to a study by the National Statistics Office (ONS), three-quarters of adults have antibodies to the novel coronavirus in the UK.
But in certain places (London, for example), and in certain categories of the population (notably among black people or of Asian origin), the reluctance to the vaccine persists, even if the British vaccination authority (the JCVI) has decided at the beginning of May to limit the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 40 years of age, in order to reassure the risks of developing cerebral thrombosis, which is extremely rare but occurs more frequently in young people.
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