Boris Johnson insists 'no reason' to delay lockdown lifting roadmap despite Indian Covid variant spreading rapidly in UK

BORIS Johnson has said his roadmap to lift lockdown remains on track despite fears of a highly infectious Indian variant.

The PM this afternoon stressed the Government was "ruthlessly" tracing cases of the mutation – and would ease restrictions this month as planned.

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On a by-election victory lap in Hartlepool he said: "It's been very important for our country that we’ve been able to get through Covid as fast as we can.

"We have to always bear in mind this thing isn’t over, the epidemiology is very encouraging at the moment but we have to continue to be cautious and we will continue with the cautious but irreversible steps of the roadmap.

"I can’t see anything now to delay any of the steps we’ve got ahead of us, and that’s going to be our programme in accordance with the scientific evidence."

The next stage of lockdown easing is due to happen on May 17 when groups of six can mix indoors, followed by the end of all restrictions on June 21.

There were fears these waypoints could be blown off course by the new Indian strain of coronavirus related to variants detected in the UK.

Public Health England today declared the highly-transmissible mutation known as B1617.2 a "variant of concern".

Experts said it spreads as quickly as the Kent mutation that drove the second wave of infection in Britain.

The PM assured that tracking of this Indian variant was "absolutely ruthless".

He said: "What we're doing there is making sure that we are absolutely ruthless in the surge testing, in the door-to-door tracking of any contacts.

"At the moment we're looking carefully at the way the Indian variant seems to function, we don't see any evidence that it is resistant to the vaccines or in any way more dangerous."

Ministers will be hoping the country's successful jab programme prevents the variant from surging.

Nearly 35 million Brits have now received a first dose of the vaccine, and 16 million have had both injections.

Cases, hospitalisations and deaths are all falling, and the R-rate of infection was today estimated to be between 0.8-1, meaning the virus is not growing.

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