The dramatic rise in UK cases of the India variant could undermine the country’s roadmap for reopening, scientists are warning today.
Prof Christina Pagel, director of the clinical operational research unit at University College London and a member of the Independent Sage group of experts, said the rise in cases was worrying enough to delay the next stage of social reopening due this coming Monday, 17 May:
We’ve done this so many times – waited until things got really bad before we realised we should have acted several weeks ago. So why don’t we actually act several weeks ago – which is now!
The variant, called B.1.617.2, is one of three closely related variants that were initially detected in India. Public Health England designated it a “variant of concern” on Friday, acknowledging it appears to be at least as transmissible as the dominant so-called Kent variant in the UK. It is unclear if and to what extent B.1.617.2 can reduce vaccine effectiveness.
Overall it accounts for about 6% of new cases, according to genomic sequencing. But the figure rises to more than 50% in some areas such as Blackburn and Bolton.
It comes as the WHO said Britain had the most cases of the variant outside India.
You can read the full story on the scientists’ concerns here:
Concerns about the Taiwan outbreak is among the reasons why the Taiwan stock exchange fell 8% on Wednesday in what could be its worst day for 26 years.,
After heavy losses on Tuesday, the Taiex index has fallen 10% from its April high, according to Bloomberg reporters.
According to the outlet, chip manufacturing giant, TSMC was among the biggest losses, because of worries about the continued worldwide shortage of semiconductors.
But markets around the world are also suffering losses this week because investorts are worried inflation is rising too quickly in the US.
From our correspondent in Taipei, Helen Davidson:
Taiwan authorities have flagged raising its Covid alert level, putting limits on gatherings above 10 and restricting some people to their neighbourhoods, after the detection of untraced community transmission case.
Taiwan has been one of the world’s success stories in avoiding large outbreaks. To date it has recorded just 1,210 cases, the vast majority in new arrivals held in hotel quarantine. In 2020 it went 253 days without a single local infection.
But in response to two new clusters of community transmitted cases, local media has reported the government could soon raise the alert to a level three, just one day after it was lifted to two. Level three requires mask use in all public places, and limits of five people in private gatherings and 10 in public. Tighter restrictions – including school closures and limiting people to their own neighbourhoods – would apply to areas with community transmission, CNA reported.
Health and welfare minister, Chen Shih-chung, said at a legislative session earlier today.
Taiwan currently has more than two chains of transmission for which we have yet to identify their sources. We are in critical condition now, and this is not a joke.
Under level two, Taiwan is currently subject to restrictions including capped indoor gatherings to 100 and outdoor gatherings to 500 until 8 June, and a ban on the sale of standing tickets on the island’s high speed rail network.
Six cases were detected in the north east city of Yilan this week, from an unknown source. Five of them are linked to an arcade hall, while another – a retiree with a busy social schedule – has no known link to any other cases. It is the second cluster to develop in recent weeks, with at least 36 people linked to China Airlines staff and a Taoyuan airport hotel. The airline cases include 13 pilots and one flight attendant at the airline, and mandatory quarantine of dozens of other staff members has caused cutbacks in cargo services.
Taiwan’s premier Su Tseng-chang said people were getting “more relaxed or careless as time goes by” after having been largely unaffected by the global pandemic.
India posted a record rise in deaths from Covid-19 in the 24 hours to Wednesday morning local time, pushing its total fatalities past the 250,000 mark.
Deaths swelled by 4,205, while daily cases rose by 348,421, with India’s overall caseload now surging past 23 million, according to health ministry data.
There were also more reports on Wednesday of bodies being washed up on the Ganges river – the suspected result of a shortage of cremation sites.
The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that a variant of Covid-19 behind the explosion of cases in India has been found in dozens of countries all over the world.
The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, first found in India in October, had been detected in more than 4,500 samples uploaded to an open-access database “from 44 countries in all six WHO regions”. Its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic said it had received reports of detections from five additional countries.
Outside of India, it said that Britain had reported the largest number of Covid cases caused by the variant.
Good morning/afternoon/evening. I’m Martin Farrer and welcome to our rolling overage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are some of the main developments to get you up to speed:
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