Extra help for north-west England to curb Delta variant rise

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London, Jun 8 (PTI) The UK government on Tuesday introduced a “strengthened support package” of extra testing and vaccination measures in the north-west England regions of Greater Manchester and Lancashire to tackle the rise in cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that the measures are based on those already deployed in other hotspots of the highly transmissible B1.617.2 variant of concern (VOC), which was first detected in India.

It will include rapid response teams, extra free tests being made available, military support and supervised in-school testing.

'I can tell the House that today, working with local authorities, we are providing a strengthened package of support based on what is working in Bolton to help Greater Manchester and Lancashire tackle the rise in the Delta variant that we are seeing there,' Hancock said in Parliament.

“I want to encourage everyone in Manchester and Lancashire to get the tests on offer. We know that this approach can work. We've seen it work in south London and in Bolton in stopping a rise in the number of cases and this is the next stage of tackling the pandemic in Manchester and in Lancashire,” he said.

'And of course, it is vital that people in these areas as everywhere else come forward and get the jab as soon as they are eligible because that is our way out of this pandemic together,' he added.

Other areas where the Delta VOC is spreading include Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside. People in all affected areas above are advised by the government to try and meet outside, keep two metres apart and minimise travel. They are also advised to continue to work from home if they can and to get tested twice a week.

The announcement on Tuesday follows Hancock’s Commons statement on Monday during which he revealed that of 12,383 cases of the Delta variant, 464 had gone to the emergency department of a hospital and 126 went on to be admitted to hospital.

Of those infected, 28 had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and only three had received two doses of the vaccine, aligning with scientific advice that both doses of vaccine help prevent serious disease.

“The jabs are working, we have to keep coming forward to get them and that includes, vitally, that second jab, which we know gives better protection against the Delta variant,” he said.

Meanwhile, a number of UK media reports suggest that Britain’s roadmap for an end to lockdown restrictions may be delayed by around a fortnight from the planned June 21 timeline amid concerns of the continuing rise in Delta variant cases.

UK Environment Secretary George Eustice said 'nothing is being ruled out', with an official announcement on the roadmap expected on Monday. PTI AK RUP RUP RUP