Professor Neil Ferguson has said the Indian coronavirus variant could end up hindering the government’s roadmap out of lockdown if it proves to be more infectious

The scientist behind the UK’s lockdown has warned the Indian variant could lead to tighter restrictions.
Professor Neil Ferguson said that the B.1.617.2 strain could hinder the government’s roadmap out of lockdown if it is shown to be much more transmissible than previous variants.
The Imperial College London scientist was one of the first to publicly warn of the true danger of Covid-19 and called for a strict lockdown in February last year.
Speaking at a German media briefing today, the SAGE member warned lockdown measures may need to be tightened if the Indian variant spreads at too fast a rate.
His caution came as data showed the mutated virus is now spreading in almost half of England’s 300-plus authorities.
Against that backdrop, Professor Ferguson said it was “impossible” to say whether the June 21 date for the final lockdown lifting would go ahead.
The UK recorded its most coronavirus cases in more than a month today (Image: PA)
“It’s not how high cases rise, but how quickly,” he said, Sky reported.
“If they double every 10-14 days and hospital admissions follow the same trend, then there is a concern.
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“We were expecting cases to rise as we relaxed restrictions but if they rise too quickly that’s a problem.”
Today the UK registered 3,180 new Covid-19 cases, the highest daily number since April 12.
Professor Ferguson would not be drawn on whether the lockdown lifting would go ahead (Image: REUTERS)
It is too soon to say whether this is part of a consistent upwards trend, however.
The number of cases reported each day has been broadly flat for the past month, sometimes dipping below 2,000 (most recently on May 17) but mostly staying between 2,000 and 3,000.
Some parts of the country, particularly those where the Indian variant is known to be running rampant, have seen big increases in case rates.
By contrast, Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire recorded a week-on-week rise in rates of 168.3 (up from 145.0 cases per 100,000 people to 313.3), Clackmannanshire in Scotland saw a rise of 131.9 (from 29.1 to 161.0), and Bolton in Greater Manchester saw a rise of 125.5 (from 321.7 to 447.2).
Despite the concern around case numbers, the vaccine rollout continues to go well (Image: PA)
There are reasons to be cheerful however.
Case rates in the vast majority of areas continue to remain at levels last seen in late summer or early autumn 2020, with around four in five areas currently recording rates below 30 cases per 100,000.
The vaccine rollout continues to go well, with 38,378,564 people have had a first dose and 23,616,498 a second one.
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To further gladden the heart, the Indian variant may prove to be less of an issue than some have feared, Professor Ferguson has said.
If it turns out to be only 20 to 30 per cent more transmissible than other variants, and is only slightly more resistant to the vaccine, a third wave of infections will be small if it comes.