London, May 17 (PTI) Over 6,200 people have been vaccinated in Bolton, a large town in North West England, at the weekend amid concerns over the sharp spike in COVID-19 infections due to the more virulent coronavirus variant first identified in India.
The town in Greater Manchester has seen a sharp spike in infections since mid-April and the B.1.617.2 variant now makes up the majority of new cases.
Prior to the weekend push, about 10,000 people in the highest priority groups were yet to be vaccinated.
Bolton recorded 733 new cases of Covid-19 in the seven days to 11 May - the highest anywhere in the UK, the latest data shows.
However, the rate of new cases among people in the town aged 60 and over is just 59.9, up from 35.3 a week earlier. By contrast, the rate for those aged 10-19 in Bolton currently stands at 486.2 per 100,000, up sharply from 200.7 one week earlier, while for those aged 20-29 the rate has jumped from 147.9 to 310, the BBC reported on Monday.
The efforts to get everyone eligible vaccinated saw long queues form at vaccination hubs, the report said.
Despite the concerns over the variant first identified in India, the easing of lockdown rules has gone ahead as planned in England from Monday.
The easing allows people to socialise indoors in limited numbers, hug loved ones and visit pubs and restaurants inside.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that a local lockdown in Bolton had not been ruled out due to a rise in cases.
He also said that the 'vast majority' of local people who had been hospitalised in recent days had not taken up the offer of a vaccine.
Speaking to BBC, Dr Helen Wall, who is leading Bolton's vaccine rollout, said it had been 'emotional' to see.
She said many who had been eligible for some time came for a jab over the last two days and she now hoped the programme had 'made a big dent' in the list of outstanding eligible residents.
Surge testing has already begun in other areas of north-west England where cases involving the B.1.617.2 variant are on the rise.
The 'variant of concern' has also been detected in Blackburn, Lancashire, which neighbours Bolton, and in Sefton on Merseyside.
Blackburn with Darwen's public health director said everyone over-18 should book a Covid vaccination in the area.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson's official spokesman said local areas should not vaccinate young people earlier than planned to stem the spread of the B.1.617.2 variant of coronavirus.
He told a Westminster briefing the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation had said the best way to protect against the new variant was to ensure vulnerable groups got their second dose of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the UK government eased the lockdown rules in England, Wales and most of Scotland.
People can now socialise indoors in limited numbers, hug loved ones and visit pubs and restaurants inside. The ban on foreign travel has also been lifted and replaced with new rules.
But Prime Minister Johnson said: 'We have reached another milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but we must take this next step with a heavy dose of caution.' The UK has reported over 4,450,000 COVID-19 infections and 127,600 deaths. PTI AKJ AKJ