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Indian variant: Local lockdown tier system may return amid fears over surge of Covid cases


On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that 2,323 cases of the variant known as B.1.617.2 had been confirmed – up from 1,313 on Thursday. He added that 483 cases of the Indian strain have been confirmed in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, where the variant is now the dominant strain.

According to The Times, officials have drawn up plans modelled on last year’s Tier 4 restrictions.

Under the plans, non-essential shops and hospitality would be closed and people would be advised to stay at home if the Indian variant continued to spread rapidly.

The publication reported that businesses in the areas affected would receive grants of up to £18,000.

Local authorities would administer the scheme and payments would be adjusted depending on the length of restrictions.

Under a different scenario, Ministers are considering a delay to the next phase of easing of restrictions in England on June 21.

READ MORE: India variant cases almost DOUBLE in four days –Hancock issues warning

With this plan, grants would reportedly be given to the worst-affected sectors including nightclubs and for ‘mass events’ such as festivals.

According to The Times, Mr Johnson views local lockdowns as a “last resort” if other measures, including the surge in testing and vaccinations, are not successful.

In Bolton, a rapid response team has been deployed into the area, including 50 additional vaccinators, the opening of two new vaccination centres and six testing centres.

Over the weekend, the rate of vaccination in the town trebled, with more than 6,200 receiving a jab.

On Monday, Mr Hancock confirmed that local lockdowns were not being ruled out.

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He said: “It is not where we want to go. Of course we don’t rule it out, but we have seen the approach that we are taking [surge testing] works.”

The Indian variant has spread to 86 areas across the country, including parts of London and Bedford.

Mr Johnson urged for a “heavy dose of caution” as lockdown rules eased on Monday amid the surge in cases of the Indian variant.

In a statement, he said: “We are keeping the spread of the variant first identified in India under close observation and taking swift action where infection rates are rising.”

The Prime Minister added: “I urge everyone to be cautious and take responsibility when enjoying new freedoms today in order to keep the virus at bay.”


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