Motion over variant exhibits authorities eager to keep away from Christmas calamity of 2020 | Coronavirus

Final Christmas, as ministers rashly promised 5 days of festive household gatherings whereas a brand new variant gathered tempo, Boris Johnson held out till the ultimate hours till he bowed to the inevitable and cancelled Christmas.

Regardless of rising instances in Europe and new restrictions on the continent, ministers had been bullish about going forward with Christmas gatherings this yr. Cupboard ministers have already despatched invitations for the Christmas drinks dos.

No 10 has been inspired {that a} concerted push for the booster jab programme has seen take-up enhance and, though case numbers stay excessive, deaths and hospitalisations are being saved roughly steady by the vaccine programme – although they’re in larger numbers than many international locations would tolerate.

Some scientists have warned that individuals ought to delay making Christmas plans – however warning just isn’t a phrase you hear fairly often on ministers’ lips.

Johnson has at all times hedged his feedback when he’s requested about Christmas – roughly as soon as per week – with the caveat that new variants may throw plans off track. Now the worst information has come from South Africa: a variant has emerged that’s feared to be extra transmissible than others and has the potential to evade immunity.

This time, No 10 has acted quick to put South Africa on the pink listing from noon on Friday, together with Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe. Whitehall sources speak in grave phrases concerning the risk the variant poses, saying it’s the most extreme risk to the UK’s vaccine programme they’ve seen.

But regardless of the quick motion, the UK has just lately drastically lowered its guard towards the specter of new variants. All international locations had been taken off the pink listing and the federal government now permits travellers to take a lateral stream take a look at on day two once they return from overseas, although those that take a look at constructive are requested to additionally take a PCR.

However as a result of lateral stream exams are carried out at dwelling after which thrown away, fairly than analysed in a lab, it means that there’s a delay in sequencing any potential new variants and figuring out their origin.

It’s too early to make any name about how huge a risk the variant poses to Christmas plans. However it would come as an enormous blow to greater than 100,000 South Africans dwelling within the UK, saved aside from household for nearly the complete pandemic and for whom journey had solely just lately opened up.

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