Boris Johnson to hold Covid-19 briefing at 5pm as India variant surges

Boris Johnson is to hold a Covid-19 press briefing at 5pm with concern growing about a UK surge of the India variant.

The PM will chair a televised press conference from Downing Street amid uncertainty about whether the next stage of the coronavirus roadmap would go ahead on schedule.

He will be joined by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.

Earlier, a virus expert warned the final stage of lockdown easing is “in doubt” following a surge in the Indian variant of Covid-19.

Microbiologist Professor Paul Hunter told the BBC there could be a “huge number of cases by June” – after a spike in cases of the new variant.

He said the UK may be able to “ weather it” – but if cases and hospitalisations increase in the elderly and vulnerable, the planned June 21 date for step four of the Covid roadmap was “now in doubt.”

But vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said that as long as the government’s ‘four tests’ have been met, they will “absolutely” go ahead with the June 21 easing.

There’s rising uncertainty about the government’s roadmap

He said: “We will share the data with the nation, to demonstrate that those tests have either been met or otherwise. That is what data, evidence-driven policy is about.”

The four tests are:

  • That the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
  • That evidence shows jabs are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
  • That infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which puts unsustainable pressure on the NHS
  • That the Government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern

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