Matt Hancock has said he believes the Indian variant of Covid is 40 per cent more transmissible, but that the link between Covid cases and hospitalisations has been “severed”.
The health secretary said it was “too early to make a final decision” on whether the 21 June shedding of Covid restrictions will go ahead.
Hancock told Sky News that the Indian variant makes the “calculation more difficult” in terms of unlocking further in two weeks’ time, but that “it doesn’t change our strategy which is we all need to get vaccinated”.
“I’ve said that link [between Covid cases and hospitalisations] is severed, but not broken,” he said.
“It’s not completely broken, but its made a massive difference.
“This week we’ll be opening up [the vaccine] to the under 20s so it’s a step toward offering it to all adults in the country.”
The Indian variant is now the main strain of Covid spreading in the UK.
The more transmissible variant has led to an increase in cases over the past two weeks, leading some government scientific advisers to call for a delay to the planned easing restrictions on 21 June.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said today that it was “time to distinguish” between people who have had the vaccine and those that haven’t when it comes to Covid restrictions.
He also called for widespread domestic vaccine passports.
Hancock said that a Michael Gove-led review into vaccine passports “is looking at that and will report soon”.
“We have the technology to do this, if you download the NHS app then you will be able to see your vaccine status,” he said.