Lockdown woes: Expert suggests shutting down whole streets to tackle variants

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Lockdown woes: Expert suggests shutting down whole streets to tackle variants

While the UK’s vaccination rollout continues at pace, Boris Johnson and experts have flagged concerns about mutated variants of coronavirus leading

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While the UK’s vaccination rollout continues at pace, Boris Johnson and experts have flagged concerns about mutated variants of coronavirus leading to another surge. Dr Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, suggested shutting down entire streets spilt counter the threat of mutant virus strains.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the expert said it was important to deploy “the most effective measures possible” when containing outbreaks of variant Covid strains.

Dr Barrett was asked whether shutting down streets could drive down the spread of a variant cluster.

He said: “Well it certainly could, because one of the trickiest parts of this virus overall is, of course, some individuals who are infected don’t have symptoms and so they can transmit.

“Trying to use interventions that might stop asymptomatic transmission may well be an important part of keeping outbreaks of these new variants to be as absolutely small as possible.”

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However, Dr Barrett also said there is a “chance” new variants will be “less well neutralised” by the UK’s current crop of vaccines.

Therefore, he suggested “it’s really important to be able to try to keep that number as close to zero as possible” through measures like lockdowns.

Dr Barrett then pointed out the lockdown restrictions have currently keep the number of variant cases “very small”.

He added: “As the restrictions are lifted the key thing to watch will be, does that number ever go up sort of week by week, and if so it’s really important to deploy the most effective measures possible to contain those outbreaks.”

It comes after the UK has recorded 77 cases of B.1.617 – a Covid variant first detected in India which is being investigated.

Public Health England reported the first cluster of the new variant was detected yesterday.

The Indian Government said in March the strain is a “double mutant” comprised of two mutations.

The two – E484Q and L452R – are found on the ‘spike’ the virus uses to latch onto human cells and it shows worrying signs of being more infectious and less easily targeted by the immune system.

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It also follows surge testing in South London boroughs being expanded after cases of the South African variant, B.1.351, were discovered.

All residents of Wandsworth, Lambeth, Barnet and Southwark have been told to get tested for Covid after 44 confirmed and 30 probable cases of the variant were identified.

Professor Kevin Fenton, London’s regional director of Public Health England (PHE), said proactive surge testing for new Covid-19 variants is needed to help officials “get ahead of the infection”.

He told the Today programme: “We need to get ahead of the infection, and not keep following behind it.”

As of yesterday, the UK has administered 32,444,439 first doses and 8,513,864 second doses of coronavirus vaccine.

Yesterday also saw another 2,672 cases and 30 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.

In total, the UK has now recorded 4,380,976 cases and 127,191 deaths.

                     

          



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