Brits warned to 'ration' hugs amid Indian variant spread fears

BRITS have been warned to "ration" their hugs amid fears the Indian variant is spreading across the country.

Restrictions across England were relaxed on Monday – including those on social contact and hugging.

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But plans to relax rules at the next stage in Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown could be scrapped if the Indian variant continues to gain ground.

One expert warned Brits to carry on being cautious, so that there isn't a resurgence in cases.

Epidemiologist Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick said the relaxation of rules is "great news for people's mental health".

But speaking to BBC Breakfast today, the member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) said: "We've had really tough restrictions for a long period of time, but we still need to remember that there are some measures in place.

"We've been able to relax controls but we still need to be a little bit cautious.

"For example with hugging, again great for people's wellbeing, but I suspect what we really need to do is maybe ration that a little.

"I'm not going to stop my children from hugging their grandparents for example – but I think we need to be a little bit careful."

Over the last week surge testing has been taking place across the country to detect both the South African and Indian variant.

It was revealed yesterday the Indian variant is dominant in 23 areas in England.

In some areas jab centres have extended opening times in order to protect as many people as possible.

At the same time, people have been able to go to pubs and bars, have overnight stays and even travel to places like Portugal on holiday.

Despite the relaxation, Dr Tildesley said people shouldn't think the epidemic is over.

IT'S NOT OVER

He added "Hopefully we can get back to normality sooner rather than later, but we need to ease into that so we need to be a little bit cautious over the coming weeks just to make sure that we don't get a resurgence of cases."  

Dr Tildesley said more information on the variant first identified in India would become clear in the next week or two – which will then feed into the Government's considerations about the June 21 lifting of restrictions.

He said: "We get more evidence all the time, I think as cases spread we can analyse that, there's always a little bit of a lag between if cases go up before we see any kind of signal in the hospital admissions.

"But over the next week or two, we'll get much more evidence.

"And the other key of course is how is it spreading around the country?

"Right there are cases in various different local authorities around the country, but we really need to see how widespread that is and that will give us a sense of how big an issue this is and the Government will then need to consider what is going to happen about the 21st of June relaxation, whether that might need to be delayed."

 

This week ministers have been rumoured to be discussing plans for possible local lockdowns.

The last version of this seen in England was the tier system that was introduced in October.

Dr Tildesley admitted "some kind of local controls" might be needed.

But officials in local areas have said that this could create "unrest" in places like Bolton where there has been some form of local lockdown since summer 2020.

Bolton counsellor David Greenhalgh this morning said that Bolton – which is one of the most infected areas in the country and is an area where the Indian variant is the dominant strain said local lockdowns would be a struggle.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today Programme he said that there is not yet any sign of cases in the area falling.

He said: "Cases are still rising, that's to be expected, putting all measures in that we can.

"The majority of cases in younger age groups, primary, secondary, 20s and we haven't had an increase in hospitalisations.2

He added that cases will continue to rise in the next two weeks and said while the people of Bolton have got lots of spirit, it's not clear how easy a local lockdown would be to swallow.

He added: "They don’t work in places like Greater Manchester, I think there is a danger of unrest, Bolton has been disproportionately affected since July last year.

"People have great spirit bit this would be difficult."

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